The singular of “dice” is “die”. Who says so?

Dice are small (often wooden or plastic) cubes. Each of the six sides has a different number of dots. Dice are used in board games of chance.

The singular form of dice is die, or at least that’s the traditional view. And it’s what I’d use, too.

I say:

one die, two dice, three dice, etc.

Not all authorities agree on this, however. The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, for instance, says that the singular die is used in the US only, or that it’s old-fashioned.

Well I’m not from the US, so call me old-fashioned – it’s 1 die, not 1 dice. Well at least it is in my book. I think the trend is against me on this one, though.

 

photo of dice

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that dices can be used as the plural of the singular dice when the meaning is ‘a small cubical piece of food’. So, according to Merriam-Webster, we’d say two dices of carrot.

Sounds strange to me; I think I’d say two cubes of carrot.

Photo Credit: Pensive glance

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. See all posts by Stuart

4 Comments

  1. Bill Davis - December 3, 2013, 6:17 pm Reply

    I’m with you, Stuart!

    To me, it’s “one DIE,” although I might say, “Roll the dice,” even with only one die. But I would never say, “One dice.”

    And “dices of carrots”?! That sounds very strange. I also go with cubes. Well, actually, I like to slice my carrots into little discs and sauté them with onions, maple and chipotle.

    • Stuart Cook - December 4, 2013, 10:03 pm Reply

      It’s worth considering that most games involve throwing two dice. Maybe explains why saying “Roll the die” can feel a little awkward – we’re not in the habit of using it that often.

      Discs of carrots, Bill – now that sounds good!

  2. Freek Brinkmann - December 30, 2013, 12:51 am Reply

    Dear Stuart,

    Being Dutch and only having learned proper English in school I find it kind of suprising that neither you nor Bill Davis are aware of the simple fact that people often use the word cube to refer to the cubic meter. That is a lot of carrot! I do not feel it is wise to rum the risk of the grocery shop delivering two cubic meters of carrot to your home after having ordered precisely that without being aware of it.

  3. Ueritom - March 22, 2014, 4:14 pm Reply

    So, according to Camdrige Dictionary, this way of saying the singular is going to die..hahaha

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