The plural of Nexus is Nexūs, in case you cared (which you almost certainly don’t)

Nexus is a trusted traveler program operated jointly by the United States and Canada, and in casual conversation, the word Nexus is often used to refer to the Nexus card itself.

One of my college classmates visited relatives who lived in a state along the Canada/US border, and they made a road trip to Canada. Everybody in the car was a member of the Nexus program except for my classmate. During the conversation, he had need to pluralize the term Nexus, which raised the question: What is the plural of Nexus? Is it second declension: Nexī? Or third declension: Nexera?

Note that this is a question that is raised only by Latin and grammar nerds.

Let's hear it for the Latin and grammar nerds!

Unlike many Latin-sounding brand names, nexus is an actual Latin word, meaning "binding together". And it is fourth declension: The plural is nexūs, pronounced as "nexoos". (At least, that's what I gathered from the Latin nerds.)

The Nexus program is an outlier in the cost/benefit graph of United States Trusted Traveler programs.

Faster land entry
from Mexico
Faster land entry
from Canada
• Nexus
Faster air entry • Global Entry
Faster airport
• TSA Pre✓
0 50 100 150
Cost (USD) for five years
(as of 2018)

The listed benefits are cumulative as you go up the y-axis, and the prices along the x-axis increase as the benefits increase, except for Nexus, which grants more benefits than Global Entry despite costing less than even TSA Pre✓. Furthermore, Nexus has no application fee for those under age 18.

Nexus is clearly the sweet spot in the graph. Why? I'm not sure, but I'm not complaining.

The complications for Nexus are that the approval process takes longer, since you need to pass background checks by both United States and Canadian authorities, and interview locations are available only near the Canada/US border. But if you are okay with those constraints, the choice is pretty clear.

When my family travels across the Canada/US border in the Nexus lane, we play a game: As we approach the border, we pick a vehicle in the general lanes, and we see if our car can clear the border before the other vehicle does.

We have yet to lose. Even if we pick a car that is only a few lengths from the border as we approach, we still end up winning.

In one of the early instances of this game, after the border officer cleared us to enter, my young daughter exclaimed, "We did it!" That strikes me as a rather suspicious thing to say immediately after a border officer lets you across. I had to caution my kids not to get too excited about winning the game.

¹ The total benefits are not strictly cumulative, however. Most of the Trusted Traveler programs are operated solely by the United States, but Nexus is jointly operated with Canada, which means that you get Canadian benefits, too: faster land, sea, and air entry into Canada. But that just makes the sweet spot even sweeter, especially if you take advantage of school calendar misalignment and fly in and out of Canada for vacation.

Comments (17)
  1. RP (MSFT) says:

    For some reason this reminds me of an old Usenet argument about the plural of “virus.”

    1. It’s “virii”, right? [ducks]

    2. _Nicholas says:

      As Raymond showed up above, it clearly would be “viroos”.

      1. RP (MSFT) says:

        And, indeed, that was the conclusion that was offered by the Latin Nerd crowd. Which is why I was reminded of that discussion, of course.

      2. I thought there was no plural of virus in Latin because virus was a mass noun.

    3. Nikolas Gloy says:

      And what about the plural of “walrus” ?

  2. Don Reba says:

    It’s actually “nexuses”. We can drop the act that English has actual rules for spelling, already.

    1. Rick C says:

      I just felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if a million Latin and grammar nerds cried out.

  3. Gee Law says:

    It seems to me that the spans for horizontal axis values need display: inline-block?

    1. Yup. I always forget that the blog system strips out the “display” style at 7am, and I have to go and stick them back in.

  4. Ore Sama says:

    Just in case you care… (which you almost certainly don’t)
    It depends on which language you are speaking. Latin is a dead language. While many people study Latin, including myself, there are no more native Latin speakers. They died out many centuries ago.
    Latin (among other languages) influenced English. Many words were borrowed from Latin to become new English words.
    As an English word, native speakers know the plural of “nexus” and need not be taught it.
    For non-native English speakers (such as centuries-dead native Latin speakers), they can look in any old dictionary.
    Such as here:
    There they can determine that the plural of the English word nexus is “nexuses” or “nexus”.

  5. Hello, a Latin nerd here!
    You’re quite right about the plural of nexus in Latin being nexūs, pronounced “nexoos”. The horizontal accent above the “u” means the vowel is “long”, so it’s pronounced like the “u” in “user” and not the short “u” in “us”. The Romans didn’t actually use these accents – they are there for us know how words were pronounced (it’s particularly important in poetry.

    As for virus, the Latin plural is in fact viri because virus is a “2nd declension” noun. That basically governs the rules of how it is spelled, as opposed to nexus which is a 4th declension noun, so different spelling rules. Most words ending in -us are 2nd declension – 4th declension nouns are fairly rare.

    As to how you want to spell these things in English, ignore all the Latin stuff! It’s people trying to apply Latin rules to English that have led to madness like saying split infinitives are wrong, which is complete nonsense. So nexuses and viruses are perfectly fine.

    1. Joker_vD says:

      And there is also a fact about Latin word “virus” that it was an uncountable noun, so the plural for it didn’t, strictly speaking, exist at all.

    2. It’s an unusual in being a second (or possibly fourth) declension -us neuter noun though, and there is no classically attested plural.

      1. I didn’t notice it was neuter as I just assumed it was masculine – good spot.

    3. PJR783 says:

      In classical times it was quite common to mark long vowels, although this wasn’t done using a macron but using an apex, which looks more like an acute accent.

  6. The same rule applies to status, Latin plural statūs. My inner grammer nazi cries whenever I read “stati”.

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