- Education and Science
English Language Usage: Et Cetera, Etcetera, Etc.
'Et' and 'Cetera'.
Many of us use the abbreviation 'etc', for 'et cetera' or 'etcetera', on a regular basis.
But are we using this correctly ~ and are we spelling it correctly?
It is used at the end of a list and means: 'and other things of a similar nature'. The implication being that these other things can easily be guessed and are not important enough to mention individually.
'Et cetera', 'etcetera' or 'etc', might be used once, or more than once.
An example might be: 'In his pencil case, he carried pens, ruler, erasers, etc.'
A more abstract example is: We should keep wishing, hoping, striving, etcetera, etcetera.
The phrase 'et cetera' has been in use since the 15th century, but only became popular during the 20th century. It is used more frequently, now, than the previously common abbreviation: '&c' ~ 'and the rest'.
'Et cetera' is from Latin ~ indeed, it is in Latin ~ and it was, originally, a two-word phrase: 'et' and 'cetera'. Now, though, when it is used in full, it is often written as just one word.
As anyone who has studied French may guess, 'et' means 'and'.
The term 'cetera' is from 'ceteri' and means 'the others'.
Latin, like certain other languages, has feminine, masculine and neuter forms of its words, as well as singular and plural. In this case, 'cetera' is a neuter plural form. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 'ceterus' means 'left over' ~ ie. 'the rest'.
Since 'et' means 'and', one does not need and should not write 'and etcetera', where the word 'and' is redundant.
'Et cetera' or 'etcetera' and the abbreviation, 'etc', should only be used for things, ideas, etc ~ ie. never for people.
When writing a list of people, the Latin phrase 'et al' should be used. This is an abbreviated form of 'et alii' / 'et aliæ' / 'et alia', which are masculine, feminine and neuter versions of 'and others' or 'and other people'. Thus, a postcard sent to the family, might be addressed to 'Mum, Dad, et al'.
Problems with Spelling 'Etc'
A number of English-speaking people seem to have problems with the spelling of the abbreviation 'etc'.
This is, quite probably, because it is not related to an English phrase. Thus, writers do not always know the original words, and, so, cannot be sure what the abbreviation should be, or in what order those letters ~ e, t, c ~ should be placed.
Knowing that the phrase means something to the effect of 'and so on', 'and the others', and realising that this involves the word 'and', which is Latin 'et', should remind them that these are the first two letters of the 'word' that they seek ~ just leaving 'c' to be added to the end: 'etc'.
'Etceteras' is sometimes used to mean 'additional items'.
In her bag, mother carried lipstick, comb, tissues, money and various other etceteras.
The abbreviation for 'etcetera' is 'etc'.
The word 'and' should not be placed before 'etc' / 'etcetera'.
'Etcetera' / 'etc' should not be used for lists of people.
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