In a world where things are so rapidly changing, it makes sense that grammar and language are changing too; this can lead to many common mistakes. New words are constantly being added to the English language because of the popularization of a word. There are also some words that originally had one meaning, but became something else entirely. This can make learning the word difficult because it is hard to know which definition to use.
The word media is one of these words, and it has an interesting history and origin. Let’s explore whether media is plural or singular, the correct usage, and the meaning of media.
Your writing, at its best
Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant
To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word media is defined as “a medium of cultivation, conveyance or expression.” It is also defined as the “plural of medium.”
The question of if media is singular or plural dates back to over 70 years ago. Originally, media was a plural word for the word medium. But in the 1920s, the word took on the new meaning to describe communication outlets. This was when they coined the term known as “mass media.” They used the word to describe “news media,” and later on, “social media.”
The plural media can still be used as a plural for medium, especially when discussing different materials of art. For example, clay, paint, and metal are art media. But more commonly today, it is used to describe different forms of communication.
Technically it is a plural, but gets treated as a singular noun in certain contexts. In American English, this has been common with other plurals being treated as a singular noun, like the word “data.”
Is the Plural of Medium Always Media?
Here is where things can get a bit confusing. Media is not always used as the plural for medium. The correct plural here depends on the context that you use the word medium in. If you are talking about an outlet of communication, you use media as the plural form. But if you are referring to the plural of medium in reference to art or otherwise, it is appropriate to say mediums. When talking about psychics, the correct word would be mediums.
In general, if the topic is art or science, “mediums” is more likely to be correct.
Which Is Correct the Media Is, or the Media Are?
This question goes back to the idea that media is a collective noun or mass noun that gets treated as a singular noun and a plural noun. When discussing media, at the end of the day, it is important to remember that language is driven by culture. The people who speak a language as a whole get to determine what is considered correct and incorrect, and it has always been that way. For example, the word “selfie” was recently added to several English dictionaries because of the commonality of its usage in modern English.
So, if you are using the word media, you can “correctly” use it as both in the singular form or the plural; you just have to know your audience and adjust your standard English accordingly. Communicate clearly based on whatever rules of communication they are used to. As a usage note, the singular media and the plural media can both be correct. Learn their colloquialisms and learn how they typically speak or write before using complicated words.
What Does the Media Mean?
The concept of “the media” in modern English usually refers to news media. It is technically a singular noun (you would say the media is corrupt and biased, rather than the media are corrupt and biased) especially when used to refer to the institution of the dissemination of information through different communication methods. For example, CNN, Fox News, ABC, MSNBC, and NBC are all considered part of the media in the American news cycle.
Usually, in most contexts where the news is mentioned, the word media is also spoken with a hint of contempt due to the fact that the twenty-four-hour news cycle has effectively ruined the majority of objective reporting, especially in America.
The History and Origin of the Word
One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from. A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English. According to EtymOnline.com, the word media was originally introduced to Modern English in the early twentieth century as a way to refer to newspapers, radio, television, etc. It is the plural of the word “medium” and refers to the fact that news was all shared over a variety of mediums, or media.
The word medium comes to English from the Latin plural word that means “a middle ground, quality, or degree; that which holds a middle place or position” and was used to refer to the media because they are supposed to act as the “middleman” between the average person and the source of the news, the event itself.
Examples of the Word in Context
Another good way to learn a word and apply it to your own vocabulary is to hear it used properly. Reading it or hearing a word used in its correct context is a great way to learn how to use it yourself. Here are some common examples of the word media in conversation:
“Have you checked your social media today? There are a lot of trending topics that I think you’ll be interested in.”
“The news media in this country is patently biased and never seems to actually get itself on the right page. They’re clearly just selling news to their advertising partners. I don’t know who to trust anymore!”
“Media is complicated, mostly because of all the different ways that information can be transmitted.”
Synonyms for Media
Finally, the best way to really solidify a word into your memory is to learn words with similar meanings. Here are some common synonyms for media:
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.