Definition of singular in US English:



  • 1Grammar
    (of a word or form) denoting or referring to just one person or thing.

    • ‘Plural pronouns with nominally singular antecedents like ‘everyone’ have been a major battlefield in the grammar wars.’
    • ‘‘Please inform the writers that the names of teams take the singular verb,’ he says.’
    • ‘In American English, collective nouns usually take a singular verb.’
    • ‘There are other singular words for classes or units of people.’
    • ‘And the singular subject ‘vehicle’ should be followed by the singular verb ‘is’.’
    1. 1.1 Single; unique.
      ‘she always thought of herself as singular, as his only daughter’
      • ‘What strikes the human eye is the uniquely singular soaring roof, shaped like a slanted disc, which also appears to be in the form of the rising sun.’
      • ‘In the pantheon of U2 acolytes, McCormick occupies a singular position, uniquely privileged, tormented and compromised.’
      • ‘Inadvertently, the rest of the society is homogenised and the spokesperson emerges as singular and exceptional.’
      • ‘This treatment is rare, perhaps singular among Philadelphia case pieces of this time.’
      • ‘That example is somewhat exceptional, but not singular.’
      • ‘What makes a person or relationship or an event or a language exceptional, singular, or distinctive?’
      • ‘We didn't come within a country mile, partly because I couldn't play, & partly because this thing's too singular and unique.’
      • ‘And because of this singular fact, every single published estimate of Social Security income and outgo is just plain wrong.’
      • ‘The society was so singular, so unique, so finely skewed between wilderness and civilisation.’
      • ‘Discarding the traditional method of drawing portraits, Mr. Eby has developed an exceptionally singular style of directly employing colour with the brush on the canvas.’
      • ‘With the singular exception of a few highly specialized late medieval tournament saddles - none rise above the rider's waistline.’
      • ‘It features some of his fashion images, celebrity portraits and an epic photo essay he shot in Las Vegas, all of them striking for the clarity and concentration of his singular vision.’
      • ‘This iconic trinity is a remarkably singular instance of women as seen and interpreted by women.’
      • ‘History has treated the Crash as a freak and singular event, unique to itself and highly unlikely to be repeated.’
      • ‘It becomes difficult in that the singular vision is important to a particular film.’
      • ‘Out of this dichotomous set of associations has emerged a constellation of forces, ideas, images and experiences which have defined both the city and rural zones in unique and singular ways.’
      • ‘Is it now official Republican theology that tax breaks are the singular solution to every single problem there is?’
      • ‘This paradoxical turnabout is not a singular phenomenon.’
      • ‘With the singular exception of Chennai, cricket crowds all over India have forgotten how to applaud good cricket played by the other side.’
      • ‘On this singular distinction, progressive vets have proudly dined out for years.’
  • 2Exceptionally good or great; remarkable.

    ‘the singular beauty of the desert’
    • ‘Christmas, of course, is a special case, and Dunkeld Cathedral is a place of singular beauty, but the trend still needs some explanation.’
    • ‘He was a singular man with an astonishing career, but at the same time, as the author notes, he was ‘an opportunist without a detailed blueprint’.’
    • ‘But perhaps even more astonishing is how this singular American victory has disappeared from public consciousness.’
    • ‘Every sip confirms that Bacardi Big Apple Rum is a singular taste sensation.’
    • ‘But persevere with Lear because, while he is no Turner, taken on his own terms he has much to offer in works of a singular beauty which contain the clues to personal tragedy.’
    • ‘A better introduction to the label would be harder to imagine, as the singles capture the remarkable beauty of Cold Blue's singular sound.’
    • ‘More than anything else, this set highlights how singular and amazing Wire were at their peak.’
    • ‘They had a singular beauty, outstanding amongst the exotic growth of fern and ponga on the slopes below.’
    • ‘In the south, it took ten years before the new leader, Albert Reynolds, read the signals and acted with singular courage.’
    • ‘In spite of its arbitrariness, that hypothesis had a singular fortune, for it dominated Western thought in one form or another almost until the eighteenth century.’
    • ‘This was as singular a manifestation of male charisma, intimidating and awesome, as I have ever seen.’
    • ‘She grew up to be a lady of singular beauty and was much sought after.’
    • ‘His hands were of singular delicacy and beauty.’
    • ‘Yasmine said that it was her singular good fortune to meet the ideal literary editor.’
    • ‘Packed in a special blue box, they are known for their singular and impressive taste experience that is the quintessence of coffee.’
    • ‘March Madness is a thing of singular beauty in the ugly, wretched cesspit that is college sports.’
    • ‘We are constantly delighted and surprised with the singular beauty, humor, and depth of these cultural artifacts.’
    • ‘The Beatles were four distinct personalities joined as a singular force in the rebellious 1960s, influencing everything from hair styles to music.’
    • ‘The pain etched on the face of every single Lisbon Lion was proof, if any were needed, of the remarkable bonding achieved by this singular football team.’
    • ‘No one else does with available light what Godard does, which brings about a singular beauty.’
    remarkable, extraordinary, exceptional, outstanding, striking, signal, eminent, especial, particular, notable, noteworthy, conspicuous, distinctive, impressive
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    1. 2.1 Strange or eccentric in some respect.
      ‘no explanation accompanied this rather singular statement’
      • ‘Barely are we into what is broadly described as ‘recovery’ than we see already a strange and singular characteristic.’
      • ‘Plans are conceived of as singular intentions, regarded as incongruous within a diverse society.’
      • ‘His escape was all the more remarkable, given his singular appearance.’
      • ‘He never strayed from the sinister, sensitive steps that marked his strange and singular songwriting path.’
      • ‘It's kind of like we've demonised injecting drug users to be very singular people.’
      • ‘In one of the more bizarre twists in a truly singular career, August 1968 saw The Incredible String Band in upstate New York as part of the Woodstock festival.’
      • ‘They are reputed persons of a singular, wayward, and eccentric character.’
      strange, unusual, odd, peculiar, funny, curious, extraordinary, bizarre, eccentric, weird, queer, outlandish, offbeat, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, aberrant, atypical, unconventional, out of the ordinary, off-centre, incongruous, unnatural, anomalous, untypical, puzzling, mystifying, mysterious, perplexing, baffling, unaccountable
      View synonyms
  • 3Mathematics
    (of a square matrix) having a zero determinant.

    • ‘Because the components must sum to unity, converting values to proportions produces a linear constraint, which causes the sample covariance matrix to be singular.’
    • ‘Using the MCMC method in Loki, if the number of iterations is too small, then it is more likely that the estimates of the IBD matrices will be singular.’
    • ‘The matrix was not singular, as the interaction observed variables were not linearly dependent on the original observed variables.’
    • ‘Asreml requires the inverse of the IBD matrix as input but this matrix can be singular.’
    • ‘The programs will not analyze data where the matrix is singular as it is not positive definite.’
  • 4Mathematics Physics
    Denoting a point that is a singularity.

    • ‘Each spectrum was analyzed as a linear combination of basis fluorescence spectra using a singular value decomposition algorithm.’


usually the singular
  • The singular form of a word.

    ‘the first person singular’
    • ‘He concludes that the first person singular may not be the appropriate voice after all.’
    • ‘It will be noted that singulars far outnumber plurals, also that the cherished object is overwhelmingly associated with a speech act participant (mainly the addressee) rather than with a third party.’
    • ‘Again, from the viewpoint of referential disambiguity, singulars are more important than plurals.’
    • ‘This difference between the two constructions follows from the fact that bare plurals, but not indefinite singulars, are acceptable topics.’
    • ‘Keep up the good work, and watch out for collective singulars!’


Middle English (in the sense ‘solitary, single’, also ‘beyond the average’): from Old French singuler, from Latin singularis, from singulus (see single).