'Myriad' vs. 'A Myriad Of'

I like myriad 10,000 Maniacs songs—”These Are Days,” “Candy Everybody Wants,” “Few and Far Between,” and probably more that I can’t think of right now. But should I really use “myriad” to describe just a few songs like this? 

First, the reason I’m telling you about my love for 10,000 Maniacs is that the word “myriad” is derived from the Greek word for “10,000.” 

Second, the word has long since come to have a meaning beyond specifically 10,000. Today, it means “a whole bunch,” “an uncountable multitude,” or “something with an innumerable variety” so it’s hard to argue that “myriad” is a good way to describe three or four songs. “Various,” “a few,” or “many” would probably be better choices.

‘A Myriad of’ or Just ‘Myriad?

Another hot debate is whether it is correct to say, “Disneyland has myriad delights” or “Disneyland has a myriad of delights.” You commonly hear “a myriad of” and just as commonly hear people railing that it should be simply “myriad” because the word is an adjective and essentially equivalent to a number. The argument goes like this: You wouldn’t say, “There are a ten thousand of delights,” so you shouldn’t say, “There are a myriad of delights.”

Believe it or not, most language experts say that either way is fine. “Myriad” was actually used as a noun in English long before it was used as an adjective, and Merriam-Webster says the criticism the word gets as a noun is “recent.” Further, Garner’s Modern English Usage says “a myriad of” is fine even though it’s less efficient than “myriad.” Language is about more than efficiency, after all!  

Today, “myriad” is used as both a noun and an adjective, which means it can be used with an “a” before it (as a noun, “a myriad” just as you would say “a mouse”) or without an “a” before it (as an adjective, “myriad delights” just as you would say “delicious treats”).

Nevertheless, if you choose to say or write “a myriad of,” I have to warn you that you’ll encounter occasional but vehement resistance. And in fact, the AP…

Keep reading on Quick and Dirty Tips

  • If you’re an artist, up to a creative challenge, and love this story, enter your email here. Click here for more info.

  • January 10, 2019