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Your question to Wikitiki89 showed you have a lot to learn about the way we do things, so I thought I'd start the process rolling. The short answer: we go by usage, not by authoritative sources. We have a page dedicated to the issue (WT:CITE) because it's so counter-intuitive to anyone used to Wikipedia's rules. Chuck Entz (talk) 03:16, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Thanks Chuck Entz. I understand the diff between primary and secondary sources, of course, but had noticed that references to other reputable dicts were sometimes invoked in discussions as a sign that a word or sense was indeed in use (on the understanding that they would have only entered things they had evidence for); and putting this together with the fact that all the Webs 1913 defs were transported into Wiktionary ... you can see where my thoughts led me ... anyhow, thanks again for letting me know, I will stick to primary sources from now on. Sonofcawdrey (talk) 03:25, 2 November 2015 (UTC)


Hi. A noun is uncountable if you can't refer to some number of them ("some rice", not "two rices"). Something like Fegatello Attack, on the other hand, might merely have no plural, which probably makes it a proper noun instead. Equinox 22:19, 1 July 2016 (UTC)

Hi. Indeed. But it is sometimes tricky to determine. I was following the system in place for other chess openings, most of which had been input as uncountable. Basically, they can be uncountable under the grounds of there is only one of them (e.g. the sun, the moon). Whether or not it is a proper noun doesn't affect its countability, proper nouns can be either. But, it is also difficult to determine if these are actually proper nouns - though, to be fair the convention seems to treat them as such (i.e. capitalised headwords), but not label them as such (none seem to have proper noun as the pos label). But I digress.
Your example "rice" is a mass noun, which is one type of uncountable noun. These are another type of uncountable noun - at least as far as I am aware that is a very common usage of the term "uncountable" in grammar texts, and amongst linguists. The current Wiktionary def. for uncountable "Describes a meaning of a noun that cannot be used freely with numbers or the indefinite article, and which therefore takes no plural form" is a bit nebulous ("used freely"). Perhaps some tightening up of the def. is needed and some agreement among Wiktionarians.
Finally, any count noun can be turned into a non-count noun, and vice versa - e.g. In the tournament three Fried Liver Attacks (or Alekhine Defences) were played. But the plural form is unlikely to meet CFI's three-count for many of these, should anyone try to do the research (i.e. not only for chess openings, but for absolutely every non-count noun in Wiktionary). So, in the end, my feeling is perhaps best to leave as uncountable for the while. What do you think? - Sonofcawdrey (talk) 22:48, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
I used to enter various medical conditions (like Alzheimer's syndrome — only seen with an -s in a group, e.g. "Alzheimer's and Parkinson's syndromes") as uncountable nouns, but found it unsatisfactory, and these days I do them as proper nouns. I gather there is some general debate over whether proper nouns can be pluralised, and whether we want to distinguish them from other nouns at all (since some languages don't; it has occasionally come up here). In terms of the potential inflections of something: my personal feeling is that we ought to need three citations for every single form (so certain odd verbs used by Shakespeare and Spenser might be missing a past tense, for example) but that doesn't seem to be the policy of most mainstream dictionaries, or of Wiktionary, so apparently if we have an attestable lemma we do not need three citations — or even one! — in order to add the "obvious" inflections (plural, past tense, etc.). I would see it as damaging the project to add a plural to an only arguably pluralisable noun where there isn't even one citation, though. Equinox 02:19, 6 August 2016 (UTC)
As far as proper nouns go, some are usually count (the Himalayas), some are usually uncount (the Sun, the Amazon), some can be both (an Aboriginal, two Aboriginals; I spoke to Dave last night, there were two Daves at the party). Seems to me that proper nouns behave in the same way as common nouns with regard to countability. I note also that while Alzheimer's syndrome is entered as a proper noun (without any info about its countability status), Alzheimer's disease is in as a common noun, labelled uncount. Clearly Wiktionary as a whole is in a bit of muddle over this aspect of grammatical labelling, but, then again, as we discussed, it isn't always clear, and there is no clear policy statement (though, personally I'd shrink from trying to write one in the first place), so I guess it is to be expected. - Sonofcawdrey (talk) 05:23, 6 August 2016 (UTC)

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I note that you have chosen to include two entomological definitions, one for individuals, one for species. I have chosen not to have both such names in English entries I have contributed to because of the trivial relationship between them, which applies to (all?) English vernacular names of organisms. In some languages, eg, Finnish, it makes some sense to have both definitions because the plural is used to refer to the species. It would seem a better use of time to just focus on one of the two definitions. I believe that for many truly common vernacular names, the common usage is in reference to individuals. For uniformity, I only provide that definition for any English vernacular name of an organism. It is not official policy, having never been voted on, but does it not make sense? DCDuring (talk) 00:26, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

Hmm. I'm not sure my definitions have made the case clear. All butterflies of the subfamily Satyrinae are 'browns', even though not all of them are brown, and many of them have a vernacular name that does not include the word brown. For instance, the Marbled White is a 'brown' (my first def.). However, there are a number of Satyrinae butterflies that have the common name 'brown', such as the Evening Brown, and the Varied Sword-grass Brown, which sense is covered by my second def., and this is the usual type of definition for other types of butterflies (e.g. albatross, tiger, palmfly, etc.). A similar situation occurs with the term "blue", which can refer to all lycaenids and is also the common name for many species of that family. I don't think it is going to be a huge problem, as there are only 7 families of butterfly, and this situation only occurs with the term 'brown' and 'blue', I think (maybe also 'skipper'). So, I'd be happy to leave two defs in this case. But I'm happy to take any suggestions as to improving the defs. Sonofcawdrey (talk) 03:12, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
I don't think the problem is limited to butterflies. And don't take it from me; take from Rupolph Carnap: E.g. the phrase “the lion” has a universal sense in the sentence “the lion is a beast of prey”, but not in the sentence “the lion is now fed”. That some English vernacular names for types of butterflies are also color names is a canard. Most names for classes of animals, vernacular or taxonomic, derive from the names for what are considered typical examples of the class.
I'd venture that the most common spoken usage of brown is in reference to an individual brown, observed by a gardener or butterfly enthusiast. Other uses are derivative, by metonomy. DCDuring (talk) 23:58, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
Right, now I know we are completely talking at cross purposes. The use of "the lion" generically/specifically is not the same linguistic phenomenon (clearly there is no need for two defs in such cases - and indeed English has 3 ways to achieve this "the lion is carnivore" = "a lion is carnivore" = "lions are carnivores"). Rather the situation is more like cat where it is the name for the whole class of felines, and also for a specific one, the house cat, and for which we have two (sub)defs.-Sonofcawdrey (talk) 03:26, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
What threw me was that you used the any of wording, which I associate with reference to individuals, for one definition and certain species for the other. I think of species as proper nouns referring to lineages. I know that usage differs, but I keep hoping that metonomy will eliminate the need for having different definitions for the vernacular name of individuals and for the various taxonomic names. I'm glad Dr. Carnap helped clarify things for us. DCDuring (talk) 11:09, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

taxonomic name linksEdit

It would be helpful if you would use {{taxlink}} to link to taxonomic names. I keep track of these and add Wiktionary entries for the most common missing ones every month. I have to do special searches to find taxonomic names linked to Wikipedia using "w:" or {{w}}. You can use the correct syntax for {{taxlink}}, but just using it without any parameters is OK too. Eventually I will get around to adding entries for genera like Lethe. DCDuring (talk) 15:19, 8 July 2019 (UTC)

@DCDuring - sure, no problem, I will give it a go next time I get enthusiastic about adding more butterflies [been too busy lately for much Wiktionary-ing]. Sonofcawdrey (talk) 07:02, 10 July 2019 (UTC)

Thanks. Such fits of enthusiasm are important for Wiktionary. How can we give more people such fits? DCDuring (talk) 14:08, 10 July 2019 (UTC)

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Hi. You've been around her quite a while now, quietly going about business and not annoying people. That's normally enough to get yourself nominated for adminship. You fancy the job (you don't get a pay rise, I'll be honest, but do get fancy new buttons)? --Dada por viva (talk) 06:49, 8 July 2020 (UTC)

@Dada por viva: - very kind of you, however, I fear I shall have to decline any such offer as other matters will shortly be making me more time-poor with regards to Wiktionary. Sadly. - Sonofcawdrey (talk) 06:58, 8 July 2020 (UTC)
Good choice. Being an admin sucks! --Dada por viva (talk) 07:04, 8 July 2020 (UTC)
I get that impression. -- And of course, I eternally doff one's hat to all admins, your work is greatly appreciated (and underappreciated). - Sonofcawdrey (talk) 07:08, 8 July 2020 (UTC)