The Plural of Memorandum: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

The word of the day- Memorandum. 

The word memorandum can be a complicated word to understand that only Google can understand, and its grammar is a little bit unique because of its origin.  However, let’s dive into how to use it properly.  The best way to begin is with its definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  The noun memorandum is an informal written record of an agreement that has not yet become official.

To fully understand how to properly implement the word memorandum into your vocabulary, it is important to understand its plural, different examples of the word, its definition, and history, its etymology, and to be able to compare it to other words that roughly mean the same thing.  Once you get all that under your belt, you will practically be ready to write a memorandum yourself!

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Is memorandum singular or plural?

The definition of memorandum is actually the singular of the word, and it represents one single iteration of that informal written record.  A more informal version of the word memorandum is “memo”.  However, since the word derives from the Latin (which will be discussed later), its plural memoranda rather than memorandums is because of how Latin memorandum and other nouns are pluralized.  The informal, “memo”, is pluralized with a more modernized English pluralization, “memos”.  

Just like many other nouns in the English language, the plural can be the most difficult part to understand.  Many languages, like Latin, make pluralizing a word very simple with things like standardized noun declensions.  However, because English steals grammatical concepts from just about every other language, the pluralization of our words typically just derive from other languages as well.

On a short note: For example, the plural of “box” is “boxes”, but the plural of “ox” is “oxen”, not “oxes”.  While box comes from the Latin and Greek, the word ox is actually derived from German and Dutch origins, which explains why its pluralization is so different.  

What are the types of memos?

Here are a few brief examples of memos.

  1. They can be used in terms of a transaction or to document research reports within a company’s accounting department.
  2. Memos can keep track of progress by way of a progress report submitted to an executive at a board meeting.
  3. Memos can be used as a written proposal for something new or to communicate an entrepreneurial dream. A memorandum of association is also important during the founding of a company. 
  4. A memo can generalize communication in a standard way throughout an organization, making sure that everyone is on the same page, serving as an organization-wide internal communication. 
  5. Memos are great for making official and unofficial requests both up and down the corporate chain of command.   
  6. A memorandum of agreement or memorandum of understanding is just a formal agreement between two parties, and is often used in diplomatic communication

What does memorandum mean?

A memorandum is usually used in legal contexts, as represented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing.  That handbook discusses a memorandum as used in organizational and legal documents, saying that the memorandum (or memo for short) plays a crucial role in establishing a record of decisions, requests, responsibilities, results, and concerns.    

The History and Origin of the Word

The etymology, or word history, behind the word memorandum actually reaches as far back as ancient Rome.  The word “memorandus” is a Latin noun meaning “worthy of remembrance, noteworthy” which stems from the verb “memorare”, which translates to “to call to mind”.  The neuter of memorandus is actually memorandum, gerundive of memorare, which is the word that we get our modern “memo”, or memo-ran-dum, from. It also has Middle English roots, meaning to “to be remembered.”

Many words in modern English actually get their roots from ancient Latin and Greek, and sometimes, as in this case, they are actually not changed at all.  Ancient Latin scholars use the same word for memorandum that we do today, for almost the exact same purposes.      

Examples of the Word in Context

When trying to understand a word, the dictionary definition only gets you so far.  One of the more helpful ways to learn how to use a word properly is by learning its context and reading or hearing examples of how it is used in conversation or in writing.  Here are some great examples of the word memorandum being used in the right context.

  • “Have you received the memorandum yet that outlines the new vacation policy here at the company?”
  • “Who sent that email memorandum about the break room?”
  • “Did we sign that memorandum with the construction company about the new addition?”

Here are some additional example sentence of the plural form, memoranda, being used in a sentence.

  • “We keep track of expenses here by way of endless memoranda.”
  • “If Tyler sends me another email, it will just go in the memoranda folder with the rest of the PDF’s that he decides we all need to read.”

And finally, the informal:

  • “Those memos were supposed to be on his desk about three days ago!”
  • “The executive board drafted several memos after the company was acquired.”

Synonyms for Memorandum

The last way to decide whether or not you are using a word correctly is to refer to a thesaurus substitute a synonym in its place to determine if the synonym fits as well.  Here are some of the most basic synonyms for memorandum:

  • Directive: effectively means the same thing, but also is used to describe a more authoritative memorandum
  • Notice: also has a very similar meaning and connotation, but is also used to describe things of a more forceful nature, often with time constraints (e.g. he received an eviction notice).

In Summary

If you have made it to the end of this short little article, then congratulations! You basically know everything you need to know to begin using the word memorandum in your vocabulary.  Memoranda are very versatile documents that are also extremely common in the business office world, and no matter what career path you pursue, you will undoubtedly come into contact with your share of them over the next few years.  And who knows, maybe now you will even be able to write them yourself as you advance in your career field. Good luck!