Zeros or zeroes?

11 Jan

DictionariesI have to admit that I had never given this one any consideration until it came up in something I was working on yesterday, and I had to look it up to check. So: zeros or zero?

Zeros is a plural noun, and oddly enough it’s the plural of zero. No e when you have lots of zeros.

Zeroes is a form of the verb to zero (in), meaning either to set a measuring device back to zero (I have never heard or read this myself, but M confirms that he uses it with measurement devices in his scientific job!), or to home in on something: “She zeroed in on the fact that he had hidden the muddy boots in the shed”.

So the noun has no e – “there are too many zeros in this post” and the verb does have an e – “my reader zeroes in on the fact that I had to look it up and contacts me to ask me why I don’t know everything off the top of my head”.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


Tags: , , ,

7 responses to “Zeros or zeroes?

  1. Lindsay McLoughlin

    January 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Great post! Interesting, also, that we can have one hero but lots of heroes!


    • Liz at Libro

      January 12, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Thank you – and yes, indeed – that’s why I had to look it up, because I thought it was zeros and then doubted myself!


  2. Juli Hol

    January 19, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Thank you for explaining it 🙂


    • Liz at Libro

      January 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

      You’re welcome – glad I could help make sense of this one!


  3. Meaghan ReBell

    April 1, 2014 at 12:25 am

    thank you!!!! i saw this “rule” a few years back, and just saw your post on it now…coincidentally, Merriam-Webster says there is no difference…i have boycotted MW ever since they added funner to the dictionary…the least they could have done was to put a disclaimer with it…something along the lines of: slang, not grammatically correct
    anyway, thank you


    • Liz at Libro

      April 1, 2014 at 8:07 am

      I can’t really comment about why or if they’re the same in American English, but it would be a shame to lose the distinction between them, I think.

      Best wishes,




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