1250–1300; Middle English paire
< Old French
< Latin pāria,
plural (taken as feminine singular) of pār
a pair. See par1
pairwise, adverbunpaired, adjectivewell-paired, adjective
Can be confused
, pair, several
(see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Pair, brace, couple, span, yoke
are terms for groups of two. Pair
is used of two things naturally or habitually associated in use, or necessary to each other to make a complete set: a pair of dice.
It is used also of one thing composed of two similar and complementary parts: a pair of trousers. Brace
is a hunter's term, used of a pair of dogs, ducks, etc., or a pair of pistols or slugs: a brace of partridges.
the idea of combination or interdependence has become greatly weakened; it may be used loosely for two of anything (a couple of apples
), and even for more than two: I have to see a couple of people. Span
is used of a matched pair of horses harnessed together side by side. Yoke
applies to the two animals hitched together under a yoke for drawing and pulling: a yoke of oxen.
When used without a modifier, pairs
is the only possible plural: Pairs of skaters glided over the ice.
When modified by a number, pairs
is the more common form, especially referring to persons: Six pairs of masked dancers led the procession.
The unmarked plural pair
is used mainly in reference to inanimate objects or nonhumans: He has three pair
) of loafers. Two pair
) of barn owls have nested on our property. Pair
signifying two individuals can take either a singular or plural verb, but it is usually followed by a plural verb and referred to by a plural pronoun: The guilty pair have not been seen since their escape.
In the sense “a set or combination of more than two objects forming a collective whole,” pair
occurs chiefly in fixed phrases: a pair of beads; a pair of stairs.
This use is now somewhat old-fashioned. See also collective noun