In this post, we will discuss the various forms, uses, and individual etymologies of the words bus (the bus plural form is buses), buses, buss, and bussed, as well as the origin of any potential confusion about the terms.
What Is the Plural Form of Bus?
The accepted pluralized version of the word “bus” is “buses”, at least according to Merriam-Webster. Many people still pluralize it as “busses”, and though technically not strictly incorrect, it is so rare now that it does tend to be seen as such.
So where did this bus-load of confusion begin? Well, let’s drive into it.
The Odd Nature of the Word Bus
Below are definitions of the word bus in various parts of speech:
“public street carriage”; originally derived from the word “omnibus”. The plural of bus in this context, is buses.
“to travel by omnibus”, “to clear tables at a restaurant”, “to transport students to integrate schools”. The plural of bus is also buses.
To kiss someone/something.
As you can see, these definitions vary wildly. I suspect that this is the source of at least some confusion. With so many different connotations, definitions, and uses for a relatively simple, common word, it makes sense that people would have a hard time reaching consensus about its spelling and usage.
To further confound the issue, the pluralized version of the word “bus” contained in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary was “busses” up until 1961. With all this in mind, it is a small wonder that any of us spells it the same way twice.
To add one last veneer of confusion, let’s consider the slang term “buss”. Though it has fallen out of vogue in recent years, the term “buss” once meant to mean kiss. Buss was alleged to have derived from the sound of a kiss, though I find this a little dubious. Then again, I’ve heard of much stranger etymologies. In case you were starting to think you were getting the hang of this, there is yet another definition of bus as a noun, this time in the arena of information technology, that is to say IT. In this context, a bus refers to a system or subsystem that is used to connect computer components and facilitate data transfers between them.
When to Use the Various Forms of the Word: Bus, Buss, Buses, and Busses
When the word “bus” is used as a noun, it is usually used to describe a specific “thing”, in this case, the carriage or vehicle used to transport large amounts of people all at once, a technological system allowing for virtual or digital transfer of data.
I’m going to be late for work if I miss the bus!
The kids were bused in from the North.
The bus in the motherboard needs to be replaced.
One usually sees confusion about the spelling of the word bus whenever the bus plural form is used. I think much of this confusion can trace its roots to the variety of different buses in the past. In the mid to late 1800s there was the steam bus, followed by the trolleybus and then finally, the motor bus.
So when should you use bus versus buss? Well, if you’re describing your evening commute home from work, you could say something like, “I was so tired after work that I almost slept through the entire bus ride!” Whereas saying, “I bussed my way all the way home from work,” has an entirely different, and potentially strange, meaning altogether.
To recap, we have the following definitions for noun form of the word bus:
- A vehicle or carriage for transporting people en masse
- A technological component for electronics
- A kisS
For the verb form, we have the following:
- To move children to integrated schools
- To clear tables in a restaurant
- To kiss; named after the smacking sound lips can make
Due to the fact that all of these words sound nearly identical when spoken aloud, understanding when and where to use each form can be difficult. An easy way to remember which form of the word is used is to remember the phrase, “Get on the bus, Gus.” Gus obviously isn’t getting on to a piece of a motherboard or a kiss, and the proper form of bus is spelled almost exactly like the name.
So, to circle back and touch on the finer points one last time:
- Buses – Noun used to describe mass transportation of people.
- Buss – To kiss; A kiss. The plural form is busses.
If you’re talking about anything other than a bouquet of kisses, then the plural form is buses. It might sound slightly counterintuitive, but in the case, less “S’s” is more.