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

English is an incredibly complicated language that sometimes seems to follow no distinguishable patterns.  It is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn for people who are learning it as a second or third language, and that is due to the fact that it seems to break its own rules more often than it follows them, leaving people very confused or frustrated.  This leads to several common grammar mistakes or spelling mistakes that then become widely used and can be very annoying for people trying to understand English, whether that be British English or American English.

An example of a word that does not seem to follow conventional grammar rules, especially for its plural form, is the noun shrimp.  In this article, let’s explore the proper use of the word shrimp (pronounced ʃrɪmp), how to pluralize it, look for its synonyms, and learn its context.

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Is There a Plural for Shrimp?

Whenever you are discussing a term, it is important to define it as a first step; this verifies that everybody is on the same page and can help understanding when it comes to exactly what is being talked about.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary says that the definition of shrimp is ”any of numerous mostly small and marine decapod crustaceans (suborders Dendrobranchiata and Pleocyemata) having a slender, elongated body, a compressed abdomen, and a long spiny rostrum and including some (especially family Penaeidae) that are commercially important as food,” and also adds a note that says that a shrimp can also be a small crustacean such as an amphipod or a branchiopod that resembles a true shrimp.  This small shellfish generally has a long tail and are frequently eaten in dishes like shrimp cocktail. There is also a slang use of the word shrimp, which is usually derogatory or disparaging and means a puny person.  

Yes, there is, in fact, a plural form of shrimp.  The dictionary differs here depending on which version you look at, but there are usually two accepted versions of the plural of shrimp: shrimp and shrimps.  So, in short, it is acceptable to say “two shrimp” or “two shrimps.”  This is in part due to the origins of the word and the languages it comes from, but that will be discussed later on.   

What Do You Call a Group of Shrimp?

A group of shrimp is called a colony or a school, depending on the location, variety, and marine biologist you ask.  There is no definite term used universally to describe a group of shrimp, mostly due to the fact that shrimp are often solitary and only form into groups during the spawning season, so the plural shrimps does not often come into use for describing the wild.   

What Does Shrimp Mean in Slang?

As discussed previously, the word shrimp also has a slang meaning and is usually used to disparage somebody’s stature.  Calling someone a shrimp is a diminutive term to describe someone as being very small in height or weight and is also sometimes used to degrade somebody’s courage.  Calling someone shrimplike compares them to one of the smallest animals in the sea, which has next to no strength and very skinny, fragile limbs.  

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to dive into understanding a word is to take a look at its history and origin.  The etymology of a word can reveal so much about how a word fits into English today, and this is a result of the fact that the English language has borrowed (or stolen, to put it bluntly) most of its words, their spellings, and its grammatical concepts from other languages, such as Latin or Greek.

However, according to EtymOnline.com, the word shrimp is a bit of an exception.  In fact, the word seems to have originated in the early fourteenth century in Old English as a word to describe the slender, edible marine crustacean that we know today.  That word, in turn, originated from the Old Norse skreppa, which means a thin person, which is derived from the Proto-Germanic word skrimp.  

The word’s roots seem to be entirely based in older European languages, notably Old and Middle English, Danish, and Proto-Germanic languages like Middle Low German used by the warring Norse tribes during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries.  This is a bit of a derivation from the norm in English, with most words having somewhat Latin or Greek roots, by way of Spanish, Italian, or even French. However, the word shrimp bears very little similarity to the Spanish camarón or the Portuguese camarão. 

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to properly use a word is to learn its context.  Either reading a word in a sentence or hearing someone else use it correctly can be a great tool towards implementing it into your own vocabulary.  Here are some example sentences of the word shrimp in common conversation:

  • “My dad likes to eat fried shrimp every time we go to visit his family in Maine.  There’s a restaurant that is famous for their popcorn shrimp that he loves.”
  • “There was a colony of approximately four hundred and thirty thousand shrimps floating into the bay, turning the water almost pink.”
  • “Did you see the shrimp display at the aquarium?  They are really such small animals.  It’s a wonder they survive.”

Synonyms for Shrimp

Finally, it is a good idea to learn examples of words that have similar meanings.  Hearing similar words used in context can be a good way to equate the original definition and learn how to use the word yourself.  Here we are to act as your thesaurus with some common synonyms or words that have similar meanings:

  • Prawn, a similar underwater crustacean, although it is a different species
  • Runt, a synonym for the term shrimp when used to describe someone’s size
  • Mite, both a synonym for the term used to describe size but also a word that describes one of the smallest bugs

In Summary

By reading this article, hopefully, you have now learned the proper plural of the word shrimp, and you feel comfortable using it in your own vocabulary, whether written or spoken.  Good luck!

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shrimp
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp 
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/shrimp#etymonline_v_23452 
  4. https://thewordcounter.com/blog-common-grammar-mistakes/ 
  5. https://thewordcounter.com/midnight-and-noon/ 
  6. https://thewordcounter.com/what-does-ps-mean/