The sky is something people have always been curious about. The neverending expanse of blue sky above us gives us a sense of awe and wonder. The sky itself was a mystery until we as humans decided to invent aircraft and spaceships to explore the sky and outer space above our planet. But what is the plural of the word sky(pronounced skaɪ), and when would you use it? Isn’t there only one sky?
Because the English language does so much borrowing from other languages, it can be extremely difficult to answer these questions following any sort of simple grammatical formula. For example, English seems to break its own rules more often than not, because so many words in English are borrowed or completely stolen from other languages. In this article, let’s explore the proper use of the word sky, how to pluralize it, look for its synonyms, and learn its context.
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The sky is a very large amount of space. When talking about the great extent of the sky, it is appropriate to use the plural version of sky, which is skies. Often times, people will use the plural when referring to the weather and the chance of rain. For example, “today the forecast calls for clear skies with a chance of thunderstorms later on.”
Skies has more of a poetic or literary meaning, which is used to convey heavenly power (“reach for the skies). This is usually used as a hyperbole, as one can not actually touch the sky.
To fully understand the word, it is important to start with its definition. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of sky is “the upper atmosphere or expanse of space that constitutes an apparent great vault or arch over the earth.” Sky (verb) is defined as “to throw or toss up; to hang above the line of vision or to hit high in the air.”
One of the most beautiful parts of the sky from our view on Earth is the Northern Lights. These bright dancing lights are collisions between particles from the sun that enter the atmosphere. They can be seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They appear in many colors, but the most common are pink and green.
People also tend to wax poetic about the freedom that comes with an open sky or compare a happy day to having a cloudless sky. There’s an old saying that goes, “There are sunny skies ahead.”
The word sky has an interesting plural form, and like other English words, it replaces the “y” with an “i.e.” The plural of sky is the same in both American English and British English.
The History and Origin of the Word
To fully understand a word, it is key to understand the history of its use at any given point or its etymology. According to EtymOnline, the word originated in the year 1200 from Old Norse, meaning “a cloud.” At some point, this must have made its way into Old English. In 1300, it meant “upper regions of the air” and replaced the native heofon, meaning “heaven.” In Middle English, the word could still mean “cloud” and “heaven.” The phrase “sky-high” is from around 1812.
Diving into the etymology of a word is a good way to understand how words change over time because this reflects the way that cultures influence a word’s usage. English is a mixture of many other languages, which is why it has so many words that don’t follow the standards.
Examples of the Word in Context
After understanding the history of a word, it is important to grasp how the word can be used in everyday conversation. If you don’t know how to use a word, looking up sentences where the word is used can be useful for expanding your vocabulary. Here are some example sentences:
The sky was bright that night and full of meteors.
Matt lifted his head to the night sky and closed his eyes.
The skies opened up once again, and thunder boomed in the distance.
The cloudy skies of winter made her depressed.
Synonyms for Sky
Another way to learn about a word is by comparing it to similar words with meanings that are also similar. You could work these words from the thesaurus into your vocabulary as well. Here are some words like sky or skies:
Atmosphere: the envelope of gases surrounding the earth or another planet
Ether: the clear sky, upper regions of air beyond the clouds
Firmament: the heavens or the sky, especially when regarded as a tangible thing
Do you say sky or skies?
The use of the words sky and skies is completely dependent upon context. Skies is usually used when referring to the sky in a particular place or when talking about the weather. The plural is not mandatory in these cases, but it is generally viewed as the correct grammatical usage. Skies can also refer to the sky over a period of time during which the sky is changing.
There is technically only one sky over the entire earth. But it would be reasonable to say that the skies of England are different from the skies of Africa. They have different constellations, different weather, and different amounts of light pollution.
The dictionary is not the definitive authority on language because culture drives language, not the other way around. The dictionary, just based on how it is created and maintained, can not continuously keep track of all uses of slang or colloquialism.
For example, the word selfie was used so frequently in common conversation that it was added to many dictionaries a few years ago. So at the end of the day, whatever the correct plural of a word depends on the context and your audience; once you are able to read both of those properly, nothing will be able to stop you.
While the sky can be somewhat never-ending and huge, you don’t have to let its size intimidate you when talking about it. After reading through this article, hopefully, you have learned a little bit about the historical usage and context of the word skies.
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.