Is It Correct to Say “A Myriad Of”?

Marcus Froland

Many people find themselves tangled in the web of English language nuances, especially when it comes to phrases that sound right but might not be. One such phrase is “a myriad of.” It rolls off the tongue and lands in emails, essays, and everyday conversations. But does it belong there? The English language is a tricky beast; just when you think you’ve mastered one part, another pops up to challenge your confidence.

The debate over this phrase isn’t new. Experts have tossed their opinions back and forth, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads. Should we use it with confidence, or should we avoid it like a grammatical faux pas? The answer isn’t as straightforward as one might hope, but it’s certainly intriguing. As we peel back the layers of this linguistic conundrum, remember that the beauty of English lies in its complexity.

So, before you make your next move in the endless game of word choice, let’s take a closer look. You might be surprised by what you find.

Many people wonder if using the phrase “a myriad of” is correct. The answer is, it’s acceptable in English to use “a myriad of.” However, it’s important to know that “myriad” originally meant ten thousand. Over time, its meaning expanded to refer to a large number or countless things. In modern English, you can say “myriad” without “a” to mean many or numerous. For example, both “a myriad of stars” and “myriad stars” are correct. The choice depends on your preference and the style of writing you are following.

Unpacking the History of ‘Myriad’

The term “myriad” has a rich history reaching back to its origins in Ancient Greece. Its etymology and evolution over time paint a fascinating picture of how this versatile word has come to its current usage in Modern English.

From Ancient Greek to Modern English

Myriad has its roots in the Ancient Greek word “μυριάς” (myrias) meaning 10,000. This quantitative term was later adopted in Latin as “myriadis” before making its way into the English language. The original concept of representing a specific, large number has since evolved, and myriad now denotes a vast, often indefinite quantity. This change in meaning has placed it alongside other words expressing a large amount, such as “plethora” and “abundance.”

How ‘Myriad’ Evolved Over Centuries

Over time, myriad underwent a remarkable linguistic evolution. This term, which started as a noun exclusively meaning 10,000, expanded its reach and turned into an adjective that suggested a large, indefinite number. The first recorded use of myriad as a noun in the English language dates back to the mid-16th century, while its adjectival use did not emerge until the 18th century. Its flexible nature in the language over hundreds of years is evidenced through the myriad historical usage examples found throughout the centuries.

“Myriad, as the sand of the sea shore, as stars of heaven for multitude.”

-1576, Jacques F., An Account of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes

Its use in literature and various forms of communication throughout history contributed to the popularization and expansion of its meaning. As an outcome of this linguistic evolution, myriad transitioned from being predominantly a noun to a flexible word that could function both as a noun and an adjective, enriching the English language with its versatility.

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To understand the intriguing journey of myriad, it’s essential to explore its etymology, historical usage, and linguistic evolution. As the term continues to be a valuable part of modern language, it is a powerful reminder of the ever-evolving nature of our linguistic landscape and the curiosity and beauty of language itself.

Understanding ‘Myriad’ as a Noun Versus an Adjective

The use of myriad can be seen in two grammatical functions: as a noun and an adjective. Understanding these different functions is essential for using myriad correctly in your writing. Let’s examine both of these grammatical roles and observe their usage in sentences.

Myriad as a noun: A myriad of gadgets are available in the market today.
Myriad as an adjective: The market is filled with myriad gadgets.

As a noun, myriad is accompanied by the article “a” and the preposition “of,” as in “a myriad of gadgets.” This phrasing is employed when you need to convey an unspecified yet vast quantity of a particular item.

Conversely, when used adjectivally to describe a large, unspecified number of items, “myriad” is placed directly before the noun it qualifies without the article or preposition, as in “myriad gadgets.” Employing “myriad” in this manner follows the same pattern that you would use with other descriptive adjectives.

It’s worth noting that both of these forms are correct. Ultimately, the choice between the noun and adjective forms of myriad depends on your intended meaning or writing style. Consider these examples to clarify the distinction:

  1. Attending the conference will give you a myriad of networking opportunities.
  2. The conference offers myriad opportunities for networking.

While both sentences convey similar information, the adjectival form (example #2) is more concise and direct. On the other hand, the noun form (example #1) can make your writing sound more sophisticated. The choice between one form over another often boils down to personal preference, the context of your writing, or adherence to style guides.

Regardless of the form you choose, understanding the different grammatical functions of myriad allows you to employ this versatile term with confidence.

The Great Debate: ‘A Myriad of’ or Just ‘Myriad’?

The correctness of using “a myriad of” or simply “myriad” has fueled a seemingly unending grammar debate. However, many language experts agree that both forms are valid and acceptable since “myriad” can function as both a noun and an adjective.

Language experts on myriad have observed that the primary argument against using “a myriad of” revolves around its relation to number referencing, such as “ten thousand of”, which is not considered standard usage. Despite this, historical documentation shows that “myriad” has been used as both a noun and an adjective, suggesting that the choice between the two forms is more about personal style than grammatical correctness.

Myriad as a noun: “I saw a myriad of stars in the night sky.”
Myriad function as an adjective: “I saw myriad stars in the night sky.”

What Does the AP Stylebook Say?

While the AP Stylebook myriad usage prefers “myriad” without using the article “a” or the preposition “of”, it is worth mentioning that other writing style guides might not have the same preference. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t appear to directly comment on the use of “myriad” or “a myriad of”, but it generally aligns with the positions held by recognized dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster.

  • According to the AP Stylebook: “The company launched myriad products.”
  • According to Merriam-Webster: “The company launched a myriad of products.”
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Ultimately, writers should consider the expectations and guidelines of their preferred writing style guide, context, and personal preferences when choosing between “a myriad of” and “myriad.” Ultimately, both forms are understood and respected across languages, making it less of an absolute rule than a stylistic choice.

Exploring Usage Examples of ‘Myriad’ in Literature

The term ‘myriad’ has been prominently featured in esteemed literature throughout history, showcasing its versatile and enduring application across various contexts. The harmony between myriad and literature is evident through numerous appearances in notable works, from biblical texts to classic literature, wherein the word is extensively employed to express large, innumerable counts, or describe a proliferation of traits.

Historically, the presence of myriad can be traced back to the Bible, where it consistently denotes a vast multitude or an innumerable count. For example, it is found in the Book of Revelation (5:11) describing the vast number of angels surrounding the heavenly throne: “I beheld, and I heard the voice of myriads and myriads of angels.”

Moving beyond religious works, a significant mention of myriad is found in John Milton’s renowned English epic, “Paradise Lost.” In this case, Milton uses the term to describe the abundance of celestial beings in the following phrasing: “Ten thousand banners rise into the air/ With orient colors waving: with them rose/ A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms/ Appeared, and serried shields in thick array/ Of depth immeasurable.” (Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 542-546)

Then each/ At once his falchion drew, each on his breast/ His adamantine plate, with diamond hard,/ With stars adorn’d, and many a known device,/ Embroider’d; each his starry crest display’d,/ Crests with known emblems: for of either host,/ Myriads of different tongues and tongues profuse, (Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines 734-740)

Throughout the ages, writing masters have consistently employed ‘myriad’ to encapsulate the beauty and grandeur of a wealth of expressions. This demonstrates the term’s adaptive nature and its propensity for synchronizing seamlessly with creative contexts. Recent authors and writings as well demonstrate the continued relevance of myriad’s usage in literature. Contemporary literature has taken advantage of this versatile word to characterize both the immensity and the variability of modern life’s complexities.

The rich historical literature usage of myriad across various literary works highlights its enduring significance and versatility within the English language. Whether expressed as an adjective or a noun, myriad remains relevant and effective as a device used by authors to capture the essence of multiplicities and magnitudes, maintaining its linguistic charm and allure within the storied annals of literature.

‘Myriads’: Plural Usage and Its Acceptance

While the singular form “myriad” is prevalent in modern language, another interesting aspect to explore is the plural form “myriads.” Although not widely used today, its historical use has been noted to emphasize large quantities or scales even more immense than “myriad” alone, like “myriads and myriads.”

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Acceptance of the plural form can be confirmed by examining dictionary entries and examples from classical texts. For instance, in the Bible, we often find phrases like “myriads of angels” or “myriads of saints.” However, it’s important to note that usage of the plural form has diminished in modern language and may not be favored in certain writing styles, such as AP style.

The use of ‘myriads’ as the plural form has historical precedence and relevance, although its popularity has waned in modern language usage.

So, as a writer, is it safe to use the plural form “myriads” in your work? The answer depends on the context, style, and intended message of the piece you are writing. Here are a few tips:

  1. Consider the writing style – If you’re abiding by the AP style guidelines, using “myriads” may not be the best choice. Other styles, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, may be more accepting of the plural form, depending on the context.
  2. Context matters – In certain historical references or discussions, using “myriads” can be appropriate. For example, if you’re analyzing a classical text or referencing a biblical passage, the plural form can be suitable.
  3. Clarity and emphasis – Using “myriads” could provide needed emphasis or clarity when discussing incredibly large quantities or scales. However, be mindful that doing so might make your work sound archaic or old-fashioned to some readers.

The plural form “myriads” has a rich history that can be traced back to classical texts and dictionaries. While its usage has declined in modern language, it can still be appropriate in certain contexts and styles. As a writer, understanding the historical and stylistic factors that govern the usage of “myriad” and “myriads” can help you make informed decisions when crafting your work.

Practical Tips on Using ‘Myriad’ Correctly in Writing

Mastering the use of “myriad” in your writing can help you create engaging, well-crafted content. To start, consider the style guide that governs your document. For example, AP style disallows “a myriad of,” while The Chicago Manual of Style does not explicitly address it. By consulting your relevant style guide, you can ensure compliance with language standards and make writing choices that suit your audience and purpose.

As you improve your use of “myriad,” consider the balance between efficiency and convention. For some, using “myriad” over “a myriad of” enhances brevity. However, language serves broader purposes than mere efficiency. The choice between the two may be informed by rhythm, readability, or personal preference, beyond grammatical correctness. Understanding the flexibility in language usage can equip you with tools for various stylistic and rhetorical situations.

Ultimately, honing your skills with the word “myriad” adds another level of precision to your writing toolkit. By paying attention to style guide compliance, making thoughtful writing choices, and considering the balance between efficiency and convention, you will be well-equipped to communicate your message effectively. Keep practicing and refining your language, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more proficient and versatile writer.