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Cacti vs. Cactuses: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 19, 2023
"Cacti" and "cactuses" are both plural forms of "cactus," with "cacti" being the traditional Latin plural and "cactuses" following English pluralization rules.

Key Differences

"Cacti" and "cactuses" both serve as plural forms for the word "cactus." While "cacti" is rooted in Latin pluralization rules, "cactuses" aligns more with conventional English plural formation.
Historically, words adopted from Latin often retained their original plural forms in English, which is why "cacti" became accepted. In contrast, "cactuses" adheres to the modern English practice of adding "-es" to nouns ending in "-us."
In academic or botanical contexts, "cacti" might be the preferred plural form due to its Latin origins. "Cactuses," on the other hand, is more colloquially accepted, especially in everyday English usage.
Linguistically, "cacti" represents a group of borrowed words in English that retain their original plural forms. In contrast, "cactuses" is indicative of the language's evolution and the inclination to standardize plurals.
For English speakers, particularly those outside of scientific fields, both "cacti" and "cactuses" are understood and considered correct, though regional preferences might lean more towards one form over the other.

Comparison Chart



Common Usage

Academic and botanical contexts
Everyday English and colloquial contexts

Pluralization Pattern

Traditional Latin
Standard English

Linguistic Representation

Borrowed words retaining original plurals
Evolution and standardization of plurals in English


Universally accepted
Universally accepted, with regional preferences

Cacti and Cactuses Definitions


Plural form of "cactus" following Latin rules.
The desert landscape is dotted with numerous cacti.


Plants with a unique ability to conserve water in their tissues.
Cactuses are often used in drought-resistant landscaping.


A group of spine-bearing plants native to arid regions.
Cacti have adapted to store water for prolonged periods.


Plural form of "cactus" in line with English pluralization.
The greenhouse had various cactuses on display.


Succulent plants recognized by their thick, fleshy stems.
Many cacti bloom with vibrant flowers in specific seasons.


A collection of desert plants with spiky exteriors.
Some cactuses are small, while others grow to great heights.


Members of the Cactaceae family with distinct characteristics.
Some cacti produce fruits that are edible and rich in nutrients.


Succulents that belong to the Cactaceae plant family.
Many cactuses are popular choices for indoor plant enthusiasts.


Plants known for their ability to thrive in harsh conditions.
Cacti can survive extreme temperatures and minimal rainfall.


Thorny plants known for their resilience and hardiness.
Even in the harshest climates, cactuses manage to flourish.


Any of numerous succulent, spiny, usually leafless plants of the family Cactaceae, native chiefly to arid regions of the Americas, having variously colored, often showy flowers with numerous stamens and petals.


Any of numerous succulent, spiny, usually leafless plants of the family Cactaceae, native chiefly to arid regions of the Americas, having variously colored, often showy flowers with numerous stamens and petals.


Any of several similar plants.


Any of several similar plants.


Plural of cactus


Can I use "cactuses" in a school essay?

Yes, both forms are correct, but be consistent in your choice throughout the essay.

Why do we have two plural forms for "cactus"?

"Cacti" follows Latin rules, while "cactuses" adheres to standard English pluralization.

Which form, "cacti" or "cactuses," is older?

"Cacti," based on traditional Latin pluralization, is older.

Which form is more common in everyday speech?

This can vary regionally, but both forms are understood in everyday English.

Do all words ending in "-us" have two plural forms like "cactus"?

No, the plural forms of words ending in "-us" can vary, and not all have two accepted plurals.

Is one form more formal than the other?

"Cacti" might be deemed more formal or academic, especially in botanical contexts.

In which regions are cacti/cactuses native?

They're primarily native to the Americas, especially deserts in the U.S. and Mexico.

Are the fruits of cacti/cactuses edible?

Many produce edible fruits, like the prickly pear from the Opuntia species.

How can I tell different species of cacti/cactuses apart?

Species vary in size, shape, color, flower type, and spine arrangement.

Is there a difference in meaning between "cacti" and "cactuses"?

No, both terms refer to the plural of "cactus."

Do all cacti/cactuses produce flowers?

Most species do flower, though the size, color, and blooming frequency can vary.

Are both "cacti" and "cactuses" correct plural forms of "cactus"?

Yes, both "cacti" and "cactuses" are accepted plurals.

How do "cacti" and "cactuses" differ in pronunciation?

"Cacti" is pronounced like "cack-tie," while "cactuses" is "cack-tuh-siz."

Which plural form is more commonly used in scientific papers?

"Cacti" might be more commonly used in botanical or scientific contexts.

Are all cacti/cactuses prickly?

Most have spines, but some varieties have fewer or softer spines.

Are there any cacti/cactuses that are endangered?

Yes, some species are endangered due to habitat loss and over-collection.

Can cacti/cactuses grow outside of deserts?

While native to deserts, they can be cultivated in various environments with proper care.

Do cacti/cactuses need a lot of water?

They require minimal water, storing it in their tissues for prolonged periods.

Which plural form should I use in a formal presentation?

Either is acceptable, but "cacti" might be preferred in more formal or academic settings.

Is "cacti" the only Latin-based plural for words ending in "-us"?

No, there are other words like "fungus" that have Latin plurals, such as "fungi."
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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