Criteria vs. Criterion: Comparing Plural and Singular Forms

, Staff Writer
Updated November 5, 2021
Criteria - Green tick marks list vs Criterion - Yellow Tick in a Checkbox
    Criteria - Green tick marks list vs Criterion - Yellow Tick in a Checkbox
    Criteria: jayk7 / Moment / Getty Images / Criterion: Andrii Yalanskyi / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

Do you list the criteria or criterion? This is a trick question because criteria and criterion are the same thing. The difference is not in the definition but in whether you are using the singular or plural form. Discover the meaning, origin and usage of criteria and criterion.

The Main Difference: Singular vs. Plural

Criteria and criterion both mean “the standard(s) by which something is judged or determined.”

  • Criterion is singular and refers to only one thing.

  • Criteria is plural and applies to two or more things.

How to Use Criterion in a Sentence

Criterion is a singular noun that means "a standard or requirement for something."

  • The main criterion for the job is a strong work ethic.

  • The primary criterion for acceptance is a high SAT score.

  • The additional criterion made the rules more clear.


Meaning and Usage of Criteria

Criteria is the plural form of criterion and refers to "the requirements or points something is judged by."

  • The judges asked for the list of criteria.

  • The criteria for admission to the university includes high test scores, a strong GPA and an outstanding essay.

  • The applicant met all the criteria for the job.

Origins and Etymology of Criterion and Criteria

The terms criterion and criteria were first documented in English in the 17th century, but they have been around for much longer. Both criterion and criteria come from the Greek word kriterion, which means “standards for judging.” This is derived from another Greek word krites, which means “judge.” The suffix -a is a neuter plural ending in Greek and Latin that has made its way into the English language.


How to Remember the Difference

The singular form criterion has an “o.” “One” also begins with “o,” so you use this association to remember that criterion refers to only one thing. In contrast, criteria ends in an “a.” Think of “a” as standing for “all” or “additional” since criteria means more than one requirement or standard.

Set Spelling Criteria for Yourself

Many words are spelled differently depending on whether they are singular or plural. Begin your study by practicing forming plural nouns to become more confident with the grammar. Then check out other commonly confused words such as normalcy and normality.