The Alexandrian

DiceCommon misconception: It’s not accurate to say “roll the dice” when you’re only rolling a single die. It would also be inappropriate to say that you’re rolling a single dice.

Actually, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, this isn’t true: The singular “die” dates to 1393. The singular use of “dice” dates to 1388. So, technically, the singular use of “dice” is actually older than the singular use of “die”.

Furthermore, the plural use of “dice” only dates back to 1330. So, essentially, both “die” and “dice” have been used interchangeably as the singular form of the plural “dice” since Day One.

While I’ve got you thinking about dice, though, you might as well check out the “Dice of Destiny” article I wrote back in 1999.

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3 Responses to “Thought of the Day – The Singular of Dice”

  1. Collin Trail says:

    Why should the usage in the 14th century have any bearing on what is considered correct usage now?

  2. Justin Alexander says:

    I don’t really understand the question. According to the definitive dictionary of the English language, the singular use of “dice” is correct. Furthermore, that same authoritative source reveals that it has ALWAYS been correct.

    The 14th century usage only has bearing on modern usage insofar as the 14th century usage has never changed: It was correct 700 years ago. It remains correct now. It has been correct at every single point inbetween.

    What’s new are the people (wrongly) claiming that the singular “dice” is a recent error.

  3. Collin Trail says:

    Ah, I see. I took the material after the colon to be an explanation or further description of the sentence before it, but it’s just additional information.

    So I took your meaning to be
    “Actually, according to the Oxford English Dictionary the singular “die” dates to 1393, so the common conception isn’t true.”
    and wasn’t seeing the link, so I was asking you to elaborate how that followed.

    But your intended meaning was probably closer to
    “Actually, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the common conception isn’t true. In fact, the singular “die” dates to 1393.”

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