Criteria vs Criterion
There are many words in English language that have their plurals ending in A and not the normal S. Criteria is a classic example of this aberration where it is the plural of criterion, but it is mistakenly understood as singular by many people. Even natives get confused between criterion and criteria and make mistakes as they use these two words incorrectly. This article attempts to clear all doubts people have in their minds regarding criteria and criterion so as to enable readers to use these words correctly.
Criterion is an English word derived from the Greek Kriterion where Krites means to judge and Krinein means to decide. Criterion is a factor, basis, or reason for comparison or for arriving at a decision.
For example, teachers have a criterion that they use to give grades to their students in a test. Similarly, companies have their criterion for the selection or rejection of candidates for jobs in the organization. Banks have the creditworthiness of an individual as their criterion for rejecting the applications for a loan from their customers.
Criteria is the plural of criterion as is the case with other English words having Latin and Greek roots such as data and media. People, however, make use of criteria as if it was singular and tend to avoid criterion as has been the case with agendum (agenda) and datum (data).
Though the word ‘criteria’ is plural one can see it being used as a singular on many websites and even by renowned authors in their books giving rise to fears that one day, criteria will be left alone and will be used as singular in favor of criterion.
What is the difference between Criteria and Criterion?
• Criterion is a standard or benchmark that makes a basis for decision or comparison.
• Criterion has Greek roots, and its plural is criteria just like data and media for datum and medium respectively.
• In many colleges and universities, a student’s grade point average is taken as a criterion for his selection.
• As the plural for criterion does not end in S as is the case with the majority of words in English language, people think of criteria as a singular rather than a plural.
• There is always a single criterion and several criteria.
• As the way the use of criteria as a singular is increasing, the day is not far when it will be accepted as a singular.