Good morning! It’s  day two of spring, and here in Maine we are experiencing a white-out snowstorm. Ah, weather. For those of you not on the eastern seaboard or in the U.S., I hope you’re enjoying a more pleasant-weather Monday. Like this irregular weather, this week Wordsmith has chosen five words with irregular plurals, with Latin, Greek, and Russian origins.

bema (BEE-muh)
plural bemata, bemas

noun: 1. a platform for speaking
2. An area around the altar in a place of worship

From Greek bema (step, platform), from bainein (to go). Earliest documented use: 1683

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“‘Why don’t you join me on the bema?’ He pointed to the platform he stood on.”
Matthew Arnold Stern; Doria; Lulu; 2012.


quale (KWA-lee, -lay)
plural qualia

noun: a quality or property as perceived by a person: a subjective experience

From Latin qualis (or what kind). Earliest documented use: 1654

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“But one cannot convey to the stereo-blind what stereopsis is like; the subjective quality, the quale, of stereopsis is unique and no less remarkable than that of color.”
Oliver Sacks; Stereo Sue; New Yorker; Jun 19, 2006.

starets (STAHR-its, -yits)
plural startsy

noun: a religious teacher or adviser

From Russian starets (elder). In the Eastern Orthodox Church a starets is a spiritual adviser who is not necessarily a priest. Earliest documented use: 1923

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Grigori Rasputin was neither mad nor a monk, but an unconventional starets.”
Cecilia Rasmussen; Shadowed by Rasputin’s Evil Reputation; Los Angeles Times; Oct 10, 1999.

genus (JEE-nuhs)
plural genera, genuses

noun: 1. in biology, a group covering one or more species
2. A kind, class, group, etc.

From Latin genus (race, birth, kind). Earliest documented use: 1551

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“All around them bloomed flowers of every color and genus.”
Heather Cullman; Tomorrow’s Dreams; Topaz; 1996.

paries (PAR-ee-eez)

noun: a wall of a body part or cavity

From Latin paries (wall). Earliest documented use: 1694. Also see parietal

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“An important cause is the original sin working defects in human embryo while yet in his mother’s womb. It causes the parietes to yield to the forces of the intra-abdominal pressure.”
Hanna Rizk Wannas; The Original Sin and Human Diseases; WestBow Press; 2014.

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