Learn English – Singular of “dice”


After a discussion on the topic I found out that the oxford dictionary describes that

Historically, dice is the plural of die, but in modern standard English dice is both the singular and the plural: 'throw the dice' could mean a reference to either one or more than one dice.


dice. NOUN (plural same)

Source: oxforddictionaries.com

Which unsurprisingly surprised me. Now, I have long ago accepted that languages are living things and I am fine accepting change, however in this particular case I am not sure just how accepted this use is. The Oxford dictionary makes no mention of this use being slang which suggests it should be valid in 'proper' English as well and no reference is even made to die except as a 'see also' and the historical use.

So, does this mean uses like

We lost one dice whilst playing the game yesterday.


The 3D artist was developing a dice model, to be printed later.

are both valid?

Best Answer

I have never heard of "dice" being used as a singular instead of die. As a collective noun which could include one, sure:

Go on and roll the dice. How many dice do I roll? Just one.

But as a straight, unambiguous singular?

Roll one dice

or even worse

Roll a dice

sounds off to me. So I went to check published usage to see if I was being overly pedantic.

I ran a Google books search for the phrases "roll one die" and "roll one dice." I got:

  • 5,540 results for "roll one die"
  • 139 results for "roll one dice"

Browsing through the first page of results, a lot of the hits on "roll one dice" seem to be either self-published books or false positives for phrases like "roll one's dice" or "re-roll one dice roll," neither of which support Oxford's rule.

Running an Ngram...the Ngram viewer had no trouble with "roll one die" but could not find "roll one dice" at all.

Add to this the fact that "die" is commonly used in idioms like "The die is cast"--this doesn't guarantee that it's current and understood (see "short shrift") but it is another piece of evidence on the pile.

Based on this--and my experience--I would respectfully disagree that "roll one die" is archaic or obsolete in modern English. Even if "roll one dice" is gaining ground as an alternate form, "roll one die" is still the preferred singular, at least in formal writing.

Related Topic