What Does Et Al. Mean?

Do you speak Latin? If the answer is no, you may have trouble with some Latin abbreviations, such as i.e., e.g., or et al. Let’s focus on one of these: et al. You may have seen it, but it’s time to find out what et al. means and how to use it.

Et al. is an abbreviation for et alia (neuter plural). But it can also be an abbreviation for et alii (masculine plural), or et aliae (feminine plural). This phrase means “and others.” Most commonly, et al. indicates other contributors (authors, editors, etc.) in a bibliographic list, such as “Feynman, Hawking, Sagan, et al.” There should always be a period after et al. to show it is an abbreviation.

Et Al Explanation with Game of Thrones Image

Imagine that you and a group of friends decide to publish some anecdotes from your most recent trip to Las Vegas. If you have ten members in your travel club, you can imagine that listing all of them on the cover of a book might look a little cluttered. To avoid a lengthy list, you can use the abbreviation et al. after the first name. Et al. indicates that two or more other authors collaborated in the work. Are there synonyms of et al.? Yes. According to The Cambridge Dictionary, also, extra, and in addition are synonyms with similar meanings to et al.

Et al. meaning picture

How to Use Et Al.

Why is there a period after the “al” of “et al.?” Remember, al. is short for alia and its various forms. The period indicates that it is an abbreviation. On the other hand, et is the full form of the Latin word meaning “and,” so no period is necessary after that word. Despite its Latin origins, you don’t need italics when et al. is part of a list. After all, it has been a part of the English language since the 1800s.

What about et al. in a sentence? How do you punctuate it? Just write the sentence as you normally would. Besides the period, et al. doesn’t require any special punctuation. However, if you are writing a term paper, there are some usage rules you should know for in-text citations. Let’s consult the APA Style Blog:

  • Don’t use et al. unless there are more than two authors.
  • For references with three to five authors, list all the authors in the first citation of the work, but abbreviate using the name of the first author and et al. for any additional citations of the same work.
  • For references with more than six authors, cite using the first author’s name plus et al. for all of the in-text citations.

Et Al. vs. Etc.—What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between et al. and etc.? Whereas etc. refers to a list of things, et al. refers to a list of people. Etc. is common in formal and informal writing. You will most often see et al. in bibliographic lists.

Etc. is short for “et cetera,” which is a Latin phrase that means “and the rest.” Use etc. when you’re writing a list of things:

I am going to bring several pies (pumpkin, pecan, chocolate, etc.) to Thanksgiving dinner. When travelling, bring necessary items like a passport, proof of medical insurance, extra money, etc.

Et Al. Examples

When people cite the work of you and your friends, they would likely use et al., especially in formal writing such as term papers and on works cited pages. Here are two examples, one in-text mention of a publication and another from a works cited page:

These linkages were monitored by large-scale correlational survey research (e.g., Coleman et al., 1966) and subsequent reanalyses of that data set (Jencks et al., 1979 and Mosteller & Moynihan, 1972).

Holt, John. “How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading.” The Norton Reader, 13th Edition. Ed. Linda Peterson, et al. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 195-203

In the first example, the writer uses parenthetical notations to refer to materials that he used as references. His first resource was a research study published by seven contributors. Rather than list everyone, he credits his source by using the name of the principal investigator, James S. Coleman. The second et al. example shows how a publication with multiple editors would appear in a bibliography.

Et Alibi—The Other Et Al.

Et al. is also short for a less frequently used Latin phrase, et alibi. Can you guess the meaning of et alibi? An alibi is a piece of evidence that shows a suspect of a crime was elsewhere when the crime happened. So, it’s not hard to remember that et alibi means “and elsewhere.” Mainly, et alibi refers to other locations that will not appear in a list. Consider the following example from a Greek grammar guide by William Trollope. He uses et alibi to indicate that the Greek phrase under consideration appears not only in the sixth chapter of Mark but also in other locations of the Bible.

The [Greek phrase] to make a feast (Mark VI. 21, et alibi) is of course anarthrous.

Isn’t it great news that you and your friends can publish tales of your vacation together without filling the cover with a comprehensive list of names? You can use et al. to acknowledge numerous authors. And if you begin talking about different locations, the list of casinos and hotels need not be exhaustive. You can also let your readers know about the existence of other places with et al. Then again, do you really want to let the world know what happened in Las Vegas?

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  • Ann

    I do not think that I should be credited with the ever present no comma after the year in the date line that is automatically printed in every email.

    • Jess Rogers


      • Ann

        No that is not what Et Al means, Mr. Rogers

  • Laura Martin

    The Grammarly app is useful. However, it is also annoying. It finds mistakes when there are not any errors: Grammarly sometimes underlines the names of people. Radine is a friend of mine. When I typed her name, it was underlined in pink and treated as an error. I write book reviews and recently did a review of a workbook to be used to prepare gifted children for the COGAT test. “COGAT” was treated as an error. Additionally, in the United States, the Oxford comma is not considered appropriate. Grammarly underlines every instance when I fail to insert the Oxford comma. Personally, I think the Oxford comma should be used here in the United States. However, it is not considered correct here.

    • CoolTolerance

      Nothing is perfect in this life, my friend.
      I am a translator thus I type quite a bit in another language. When it is time to relax, I visit websites and often post a comment.
      Trust me, I prefer clicking the option offered by Grammarly than to go through the dreadful deleting or correcting when all I have to do is click on option offered.
      In my opinion, it is the BEST app for English language.

      • Laura Martin

        I never said I did not like it. I only said that some aspects of it are annoying. Grammarly is actually quite useful.

        • Claudio Buitrago

          Laura, you sound really annoying.

        • Kendra Moore

          Does Grammarly offer the option to ‘add to dictionary’, like some other spelling and grammar checkers? That might solve some of your annoyances, if so!

          I haven’t started using it yet, and am unsure if I will. I saw the ad, and loved the idea of an easy-access thesaurus, but I’m not sure I love it as much as I do $11.99/month…

          • Laura Martin

            I am not sure about the “add to dictionary” option. My problem has nothing to do with that, however. I am in my 70s and sometimes I have trouble with my fingers. I go to correct my typos, but the word I am typing has already been underlined as a mistake before I can correct the typo. Also, names of people and acronyms are sometimes underlined as mistakes.

    • pszymeczek

      Use of the Oxford comma is not necessarily considered to be incorrect in the U. S.; it is considered to be OPTIONAL. Personally, I prefer to use it.

      • Laura Martin

        Rules change over the years. When I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, the Oxford comma was considered incorrect. I am 71 years old, so it may be fine to use the Oxford comma today. You said it is optional. My older brother writes for Audubon, and I notice he does not use it; he was taught not to do so. A couple of members of my book club are librarians, and they say it is incorrect. However, they are my age. I actually think the Oxford comma makes many sentences clearer. BTW we were taught to write “all right”, not “alright”. It still bothers me to see “alright”. Thanks for your input!

    • rasil4u

      Simply ignore. I find Grammarly helpful especially when i am rushing.

  • Laura Martin

    Well, thanks, Claudia. I see there are nasty people out there. i was hoping for a discussion of the good and bad features of Grammarly.

  • rasil4u

    Loving this site as a refresher.

    • Angela Townsend

      Me too.

  • Diana Collins

    Thank you for the great tips!!

  • linda shovea

    Is it a great error to use “ex.;” v.s. “e.g.” ?

  • Diego

    To be more precise, et al. can be the shortened form for “et alii” (and other people, m.pl.) and “et alia” (other things, n.pl)

  • hgomezc


    Any opinions about using et al. in an email greeting when there are more than two recipients? specifically when recipients are in the to: field and not on the cc: field

    Let’s say that I’m replying an email to : Jane, Mark, Brandon, Naomi and Louis and I would like to direct my conversation to a single person that asked something specific.

    Which would be better to start my email with:

    a) Hi Mark, et al.
    b) Hi Mark (et al.)
    c) Hi Mark,
    d) None of the above.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Ayush Vora

      c) Hi Mark

    • Tracye

      c). No need to complicate it. Less is more. (exception; DJT)

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