Two is better than one

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A few masculine Italian nouns, that have the ending in ‘-o’, during the passage from the Latin language to what we today call “Italiano standard”, has preserved the original latin ending in ‘-a’ (used generally for feminine nouns) and at the same time they got the regular ending in ‘-i’.

These names are called “sostantivi sovrabbondanti” or nouns with “plurali doppi”.

About these nouns, in most cases, the difference in plural forms also corresponds to a difference in meaning.

Here are some examples:

Singolare Plurale in – i – Plurale in – a –
L’osso / The bone Gli ossi (of an animal) Le ossa (of the human body)
L’urlo / The scream Gli urli (especially of animals) Le urla (of human beings)
Il ciglio / The eyelash I cigli (edges, limits, ex. of a road) Le ciglia (of the eyes)
Il braccio / The arm I bracci (of mechanical instruments) Le braccia (the arms of the human body)
Il fondamento / The foundation I fondamenti (of a scientific theory) Le fondamenta (the basics of a building)

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