Writing Challenge Day 31: What’s the Plural of Apocalypse?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This year’s theme is “accentuate the positive”– this post may or may not adhere to that theme.

It’s tempting to shove all ambient turmoil into the strange 365-day-period we just experienced. Tempting to think the new year might just make everything a bit better by sheer virtue of the new number at the end of typed dates. But we all know back to normal is cancelled. Our global and domestic situations will continue to percolate and metastasize in new ways that will test our tolerance for both surprise and angst. So it’s probably a good time to ask:

What’s the plural of apocalypse?

The answer is apocalypses, but that isn’t fun. Please banish this fact from your brain. Now pour yourself a beverage and bear with me as I use this prompt to deliver a eulogy for the year everyone hated.

Off the bat, I see multiple linguistic options. I’d like to quickly run you through them: please consider me your tour guide on this choose-your-own-semantic adventure.

  1. We could argue apocalypse falls under the same grammatical umbrella as moose, where the singular form also constitutes the plural. Given the general drama of apocalypse, this option is appealing.

Example usage: “We’ve had a lot of apocalypse this year–remember when the entire continent of Australia was on fire and pop stars started getting mullets again?”

  1. Stick with what works—our etymology is Greek, so what about apocalyae? I’d argue the biggest strength here is the connotation of tragedy. Feels apropos!

Example usage: “While Dr. Strangelove (1964) focuses on the threat of nuclear warfare, as there is only one Cold War, this film does not qualify as apocalyae cinema. However, Cats (2019) certainly meets the criteria.”

  1. Staying in Greece, apocalypse comes from “apokaluptein,” meaning reveal or uncover. So despite its current fatalistic definition, apocalypse has a backstory with a lot less finality. To reflect this nuance, we could get fancy and opt for apocEllipsis—sounds like the singular, but by tacking on ellipsis, the most ominous and uncertain punctuation in the English language, we allow ourselves to consider possible post-apocalypses. I acknowledge this one is a stretch, but I stand by it.

Example usage: “Things are so amorphous and strange that I feel like I can’t plan or predict anything. This year has been one big apocEllipsis marked only by pounds gained and shows binged.”

  1. We could just call a group of apocalypses a 2020. Treat apocalypse like a type of wild animal that occasionally gathers en masse. Like a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, or a pandemonium of parrots. Why do birds get all the good collective nouns? Please do not ask me, I’m not a scientist.

Example usage: “That relationship was a total 2020. He never did the dishes, he ate my cat, and then he tried to sue me for defamation.”

Now that you’ve met our lovely contestants, please take a moment to vote in the comments or propose your own entry. I will submit the results to the Oxford Dictionary, and I expect they’ll formalize the change within the year.

Happy new year kiddos. Hang in there.


Top Comments

  • Whatever we call it, knowing there is an apocalypse (or multiple) we can also hope for a better post-apocalyptic world.  is correct that so many good things happened this year to temper the bad. There will always be ups and downs, and I feel 2020 has been a year of lower lows than normal for most. This leaves room for higher highs though, so let's have hope for our post-apocalyptic times to be to have less lows and more highs. 

  • I think  has the right of it, using "pocolypse" as a hyphenated suffix to add to anything that makes a big impression on someone, as long as that thing doesn't cause the literal destruction of the Earth.

    Surely that philosophy has worked for advertising & naming purposes. 

    Tacopocalypse was a restaurant in Des Moines.  Although, now that I think of it, and given the stereotypical results people complain of from eating at fast-food Taco "restaurants", a "Taco-Apocolypse" might be a personal and embarrassing disaster.  Maybe that's why the restaurant is listed as "Closed Permanently" in Google?

    But everything I've come up with that includes "apocalypse" in its name (so far) isn't describing the end of the world.  It's describing getting on with life after a life-altering event.  Even a post-dystopian environment still has the Earth present.  So these graphics/memes, while cute or mentally stimulating, truly aren't appropriate uses of the word.  In all cases, the world still exists.  It's just different.



  • Great way to end the year.   Thank you for this write-up.   Good Job.    

    Did we ever consider the A, so rather than Apocalypse, could the plural be two-pocalypse or somepocalypse.  Regardless, like Atypical is the opposite of typical maybe apocalypse is the opposite of just pocalypse.  Although it isn't true, how cool would it be if it was.   We could say 2021 the Pocalypse year.  

  • I will not even try to outdo 's comment. Buffy, perspective from someone who survived a really apocalyptic event, and wrapping up the who month's challenge? You get big kudos for that entry, Leon.

    I will propose another way to pluralize apocalypse. The suffix -im is the masculine plural in Hebrew. "Apocalypsim" just sorta rolls off the tongue.

  • What--you need to describe MORE than ONE apocalypse?  Or, are you saying you've experienced multiple?

    In actuality, there's only supposed to be one Apocalypse.

    We overuse the word, since a true apocalypse is world-ending.  It's common to use the word for dramatic effect, but we really ought to use smaller words, focused on a more individual or personal scale.  For example:

    "COVID-19 was a disaster for politicians and world leaders . . . " 

    "The tsunami caused a local catastrophe for residents of . . . "  

    "The hurricane's destruction was LIKE an apocalypse."


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