IATE term of the week: Agenda

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Agenda as a synonym to calendar and notebook

Back to school or back to work? It is time to set out new goals and tasks for the last four months of 2021.

Have you already set your new agenda?

The polysemy of “agenda”

Today, the term “agenda” acquires different meanings depending on the context:

  • As a synonym to “calendar” or to refer to a list with scheduled events organized by time.
  • A list of topics to be discussed in your next work meeting.
  • The notebook we all have in order to keep ourselves organized throughout the working week.
  • A certain vision or plan for future actions of an organisation.

Often, you will find the word “agenda” in the terms “media agenda” and “political agenda”.

Click on the image above to access the IATE entry.

The etymology of “agenda”

The word agenda comes from Latin. The literal translation of the Latin word is ”things to be done”, namely a plan to do several things within a certain period of time. “Agenda” is one of the Latin words that recurs in several European languages in its plural form. Its singular form is agendum and it refers to a singular point of an agenda but in fact, it is rarely used.

From agendum to agenda being singularised

An interesting fact is that the term became fully singularized in English in 1650s. In 1820-1850s the term agenda, the plural form of agendum, started to be used as a singular word for indicating a *a listof things to be done*. That is the reason why in English you can meet the plural form of “agenda”, i.e. “agendas”.

Singular or plural forms of terms are sometimes difficult to understand and frequently misused, unless you know the history behind them. The correct forms of male and female nouns are also challenging to use. We wrote about male and female animal names.

Reference:

agenda – Wiktionary. 2021. agenda – Wiktionary. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/agenda. [Accessed 08 September 2021].

How did ‘agenda’, which started out as a plural noun, end up as a singular noun? – Quora. 2021. How did ‘agenda’, which started out as a plural noun, end up as a singular noun? – Quora. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.quora.com/How-did-agenda-which-started-out-as-a-plural-noun-end-up-as-a-singular-noun. [Accessed 08 September 2021].

Current misuse of Greek and Latin words. 2021. 11. Current misuse of Greek and Latin words. [ONLINE] Available at: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/frank/kiss/kiss11.htm. [Accessed 08 September 2021].

agenda | Origin and meaning of agenda by Online Etymology Dictionary. 2021. agenda | Origin and meaning of agenda by Online Etymology Dictionary. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/agenda. [Accessed 08 September 2021].

Etymologeek. 2021. Agenda etymology in English | Etymologeek.com. [ONLINE] Available at: https://etymologeek.com/eng/agenda/14960878. [Accessed 08 September 2021]

Wordsense. 2021. Agenda. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.wordsense.eu/agenda/. [Accessed 8 September 2021].

What is the plural of the word ‘agenda’? – Quora. 2021. What is the plural of the word ‘agenda’? – Quora. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-plural-of-the-word-agenda. [Accessed 10 September 2021].

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange. 2021. connotation – Meaning of “have an agenda” – English Language & Usage Stack Exchange. [ONLINE] Available at: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/24212/meaning-of-have-an-agenda. [Accessed 10 September 2021].

APA Style 6th Edition Blog: Data Is, or Data Are?. 2021. APA Style 6th Edition Blog: Data Is, or Data Are?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2012/07/data-is-or-data-are.html. [Accessed 10 September 2021].


Written by Daniela Ignatova

She holds degrees in both Public Relations and European Governance. Currently, Daniela is combining her passion for communications and social media with her interest in the work of the European institutions.