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Curriculum vitae (often abbreviated CV) is a common Latin locution present in a high number of languages, including English.

In English, as in other languages, how to pluralize these foreign locutions is a common problem. In some cases, the naturalized (i.e. English) plural is Ok, in others it is not. But most of the time, following the plural in the original language is a good alternative.

A google search for the plural of CV seems to suggest there are two alternatives (curricula vitae and curricula vitarum), although Wikipedia says there is debate on which of them is more correct than the other.

So the question is: What is the plural in Latin for Curriculum Vitae?

  • 2
    Are we looking for a Latin or an English plural? Curriculums is certainly not a Latin plural, but is arguably a valid English one. – brianpck Mar 29 '17 at 18:36
  • 1
    @brianpck The Latin one, certainly – Rafael Mar 29 '17 at 19:58
  • 3
    One might argue that there are several kinds of plurals in Latin. If several people each have their own CV, I agree with C. M. Weimer's answer below that they together have curricula vitae. But if the merits of several people are combined into a single document, I would say that there is a single curriculum vitarum. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 29 '17 at 20:41
  • 1
    @C.M.Weimer In joint grant applications one has to prove that all the principal investigators are sufficiently qualified. If those qualifications and personal histories are presented in a single document, it would be exactly that kind of thing. But I agree, it's rare. Usually separate CVs would be used. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 29 '17 at 21:18
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It's the former, curricula vitae. As the article linked in Wikipedia points out, vitarum would indicate that there are multiple lives mentioned per each curriculum. However, vitae as a genitive is describing the type of curriculum, and curriculum itself is the object that needs to be singular or plural.

This isn't so confusing if you plug it back into English:

Racetrack of life. Racetracks of life.

Life is singular!

Latin tends to go even further, though, in making singular where even English would have a plural. So when the Gallic tribes were entreating the help of Caesar, the Sequani instead had "their head lowered" -- multiple people, one head.

Animadvertit Caesar unos ex omnibus Sequanos nihil earum rerum facere quas ceteri facerent sed tristes capite demisso terram intueri. (BG 1.32)

9
+100

I agree with C. M. Weimer's response and have found three authors who use curricula vitae in their writings.

  1. Cicero

    ante Socratem Democritum Anaxagoram Empedoclem omnes paene veteres, qui nihil cognosci nihil percipi nihil sciri posse dixerunt, angustos sensus imbecillos animos brevia curricula vitae et ut Democritus in profundo veritatem esse demersam.... (Cicero Academica 44.5-10)

    Before Socrates, Democritus, Anaxagoras, and Empedocles almost all the old [philosophers] said that nothing could be understood, perceived, or known, that senses are narrow, souls are feeble, and life's courses are short, and that, as Democritus said, the truth is deeply submerged.

  2. Marcus Cornelius Fronto (2nd c. AD)

    adulescentiae iuventuti prolixa vitae curricula data sunt. (Fronto, Ad Amicos Epistulae 2.7.19.14)

    Long stretches of life are given to young adulthood and youth.

  3. Zeno of Verona (4th c. AD)

    in ultimis uitae curriculis Sarrae uterum filius aperuit (Zeno of Verona, Tractatus 1.59.1.9)

    In the last stages of life a son opened the womb of Sarah.

Note that examples (2) and (3) are not especially cogent because they are referring to one life. In this case, a curriculum is not a "full course" of a life, but a particular "stretch" of that course. (Remember, the analogy is to a racetrack.)

Cicero's example, though, clearly refers to multiple "life courses," and should be taken as the model. I found no examples of plural curricula paired with plural vitarum.

(For reference, here is a link to the corpus search that I used.)

  • 2
    +1 Good thinking! It didn't even occur to me to list the ancient precedents. – C. M. Weimer Mar 30 '17 at 17:58

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