The Grammarphobia Blog

A plural in sheep’s clothing

Q: I wonder if you could tell me the name for the plural of a word that’s the same in both the singular and the plural (a word like “sheep,” for example). I heard the name for it some time ago, but I cannot recall it.

A: Plurals of words like “deer” and “sheep” are often called “unmarked plurals.” More obscurely, the grammarians Otto Jespersen and George Curme called them, respectively, “unchanged plurals” and “collective plurals.” I hope this helps.