‘Two reredos… es?!’ A note on vocabulary


Throughout the project we have, in talking so much about these marvellous artefacts, come up against the sole downside to having more than one reredos: a certain amount of confusion over the plural (which normally happens mid-sentence!).

The job of cataloguing involves making sure that the language used is clear and does its job of communicating well. Consistency of terminology is part of this, and we therefore needed to resolve and standardise our key terms at the outset.

For those of you who are similarly inclined:

Both ‘reredos’ and ‘reredoses’ are correct as the plural, but the latter is the preferred term specified in the standard we are using for the catalogue (Cataloguing Cultural Objects – see below) and in the Art and Architecture Thesaurus which is a commonly used standard for cataloguing vocabulary. ‘Reredoses’ also has the advantage of more adequately differentiating the plural in spoken language!

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word reredos derives from Anglo-Norman words meaning ‘behind’ or ‘back’: rere (from which the modern ‘rear’) and dos (from the Latin dorsum – ‘back’).



Baca, M. et al (2006) Cataloguing Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images. Visual Resources Association/ American Library Association (p. 348).

J. Paul Getty Trust (2004) Art and Architecture Thesaurus.



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