Without a doubt, you’ve used the abbreviation for etcetera many times before, and you’ve seen it in various texts. You’re probably wondering where the term originated.
Well, your search is over. Here, we’ll serve up the history and context for this incredible word: etcetera. We’ll define it, look deeper into its origin, and find out when the abbreviation is appropriate. That’s not all; we’ll also look at synonyms and provide examples of proper usage.
Your writing, at its best
Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant
There is one common abbreviation of etcetera: etc.
The abbreviation is derived from the Latin phrase et cetera, which means, “and the rest.”
Many people misspell the abbreviation, writing “ect,” which is wrong. Also, avoid using the phrase “and etc.,” since “et” already means “and.”
The abbreviation for etcetera appears more often than the whole phrase, especially in business writing. Also, people often use etc. in technical writing.
Writers typically use etc. when they describe a list of more than two things that isn’t complete. For example:
She loves chips, sweets, chocolates, etc., although these are unhealthy foods.
I bought books, pens, etc., for the students to prepare for the national examination.
The abbreviation etc. can also appear as an extra item in a bullet list. For example:
The following products are the top performers this semester—
Notably, the abbreviation for etc. should not be used alongside the phrases “such as” or “for example.” One can use an em dash (—) instead.
Incorrect: There are a lot of fruits this season, for example, apples, mangoes, grapes, etc.
Correct: There are lots of fruits this season—apples, mangoes, grapes, etc.
Also, one should insert a comma before the abbreviation if it appears at the end of the sentence.
The new gardener will be working on the patio, yard, fence, etc.
However, if the abbreviation appears in the center of the sentence, there should be a comma before and after etc.
The new gardener will be working on the patio, yard, fence, etc., as well as undertaking other duties as assigned by the supervisor.
In academic writing, the abbreviation for etcetera may be used; however, it must be done perfectly. To use etc. at the end of a list, all of the items must be related.
He brought books, pencils, pens, papers, etc., to school.
He grows tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce, etc., in his small garden.
Also, the abbreviation must conclude with a period, no matter where the abbreviation appears in a text. The period indicates that the word etcetera has been shortened.
In academic writing, the abbreviation shouldn’t be used more than once in a sentence.
Incorrect: He grows tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce. etc. etc. etc.
However, in informal writing, there is no limitation whatsoever.
The abbreviation shouldn’t be used when referring to people.
Incorrect: As we left the party, we heard James, Anne, Peter, etc., discuss the after-party.
As a general rule, one should not use the word “and” before the abbreviation.
Incorrect: He grows bananas, oranges, apples, and etc. on his small farm.
Just like any other abbreviation, one can use another form of punctuation after etc.
Correct: The party begins at 4:00 p.m. Will you please bring the plates, wine glasses, napkins, etc.?
Correct: I just don’t like people misspelling my name, writing Annie, Anny, etc.!
Other Expressions Similar to Etcetera
Other expressions may be used to indicate that additional examples exist but have not been listed in the text.
The Latin expression et alii (abbreviated et al.) means “and others.” This can be used when listing people, rather than items.
In other languages, different words or phrases take the place of the Latin etcetera.
The Arabic expression is “ila.”
The Norwegian expression is “osv.”
The French expression is “et caetera.”
The Romanian expression is “si.”
The Ukrainian expression is “toshcho.”
The Croatian expression is “itd.”
What Does Et Cetera Mean?
Et cetera is a Latin expression meaning, “and the rest.” Normally, it’s written as two words in Canadian English and one word in American English. Either variant may be used, and both are correct.
Wikipedia defines et cetera as, “and other similar things.” It also means, “and so forth.” As a literal translation, et means “and,” and cetera means “the rest.” Et cetera is used to signify the end of a list.
The History of the Word
Use of the word etcetera can be traced back to Medieval Latin. It became commonly used in Modern English towards the end of the 19th century. During that period, etcetera was used as a synonym for odds and ends or sundries.
Synonyms for Et Cetera
And so on
And so forth
And all that
And the like
And the rest
Examples of Etcetera in Use
“The use of superscripts and subscripts is very common in mathematical expressions involving exponents, indexes, and some special operators. This article explains how to write superscripts and subscripts in simple expressions, integrals, summations, et cetera.” —De.overleaf.com
“However, Al/NiO nanocomposites prepared by the traditional physical mixing method can cause problems such as non-uniform mixing, long distance and small contact area between particles, and poor product consistency, etcetera, resulting in reduced mass and heat transfer rate, and thus lower energy release rate and efficiency.” —ScienceDirect
“I don’t carry a wallet, because I haven’t had to use a credit card in a long time,” Trump said. “I do like leaving tips to the hotel. I like to carry a little something. I like to give tips to the hotel. I’m telling you, maybe a president’s not supposed to do it, but I like to leave a tip for the hotel, etcetera, etcetera.” —National Post
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.