Why is “maths” plural?

Whenever I talk about maths here, Americans ask why Brits use the plural of math. I have an utterly unproven theory suggesting that it’s not a plural at all.

Years ago, I heard a story that explained why Hampshire is abbreviated to Hants on British letters. In 1086 when the Domesday Book was penned, Hampshire was called Hantescire. As people began to write letters and found the practice too labour-intensive, they chose to abbreviate their words. To avoid confusion, they put a little sign at the end of those words to show that they’d been abbreviated. The little sign looked like this: ~

“Hantescire” was abbreviated to “Hant~”.

Over time, the ~ rolled over, tipped sideways, and slid down, turning “Hant~” into “Hants”.

Maybe the same thing happened to mathematics.

The mathematician of the house, being a nutty kid instead of a mathematician

The mathematician of the house, being a nutty kid instead of a mathematician

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About Natalie Gotts

I've been a management consultant, a nutritional therapist, a Journey practitioner and a mother. I've sold ostriches in China and personal safety devices in Hong Kong. Whatever I've done, and wherever I've been, I've written about it.
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2 Responses to Why is “maths” plural?

  1. Nicky Howard says:

    Yes lovely to read this. I’m also curious why Oxfordshire is/was abbreviated to Oxon!

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