Is there a proper plural for "ethnicity"?
March 16, 2006 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Is "ethnicities" a proper plural of "ethnicity"?

I'm editing a sentence containing a list, and I'm concerned about parallelism. The sentence is along these lines: "Our organization reflects numerous cultures, backgrounds, ethnicity, and experiences." To me, "ethnicities" reads better, but I'm not sure it's a proper word. If not, is "ethnicity" a proper plural, or would "ethnic backgrounds" work better?
posted by pardonyou? to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
posted by xanthippe at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2006

Yes, it is. At least according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition, used for the Dictionary app on my computer. I looked at Webster's online and it didn't give me the plural.
posted by nramsey at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2006

Ethnicities, while not listed as a plural in most dictionaries, is in common parlance. Ethnic backgrounds would also work.
posted by desuetude at 9:49 AM on March 16, 2006

I wouldn't use "ethnic backgrounds" right after "backgrounds," though.
posted by occhiblu at 10:07 AM on March 16, 2006

Ethnicities also fine per Webster's.
posted by scody at 10:24 AM on March 16, 2006

I agree with the de-facto acceptance of "ethnicities", but how about "ethnic identities" or "ethnic groups"?
posted by mkultra at 10:24 AM on March 16, 2006

Bah. "Ethnicities" sounds more like how real people talk. "Ethnic identities" (or even "ethnic backgrounds") just crams in an extra buzzword — in a list that's already chock-full of buzzwords — without adding any meaning.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2006

If you want to be parallel, you might also imagine your categories as Venn diagrams, and separate them more distinctly. There are huge overlaps.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I mark you all "best."
posted by pardonyou? at 10:31 AM on March 16, 2006

I think this FAQ on plurals is relevant – dictionaries generally only explicitly mention the plural form of a noun if it’s irregular. So you’ll find the plural for mouse but not for cat, for example. Ethnicities is a regular plural, which is why you didn’t find it in the dictionary.
posted by hilker at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2006

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