The Grammarphobia Blog

Three little Wendys

Q: Please tell me the correct way to “pluralize” (is this a word?) a person’s name. For example, “The Marxes (a couple named Marx) will be presenting their ideas to the board.” Is there a rule about when to add an “es” or only an “s”?

A: We wrote a post a few years ago about how names are pluralized (yes, it’s a word), but the subject comes up so often that the commonly accepted rules bear repeating.

Any name or other word ending in a sibilant (a hissing, shushing, or buzzing sound, as in “s” “ch,” “sh,” “x,” or “z”) is pluralized with the addition of “es.”

Examples: “Joneses” … “Foxes” … “Birches” … “Lopezes” … “Schultzes” … “Gishes” … “Fitches.”

In general, names are pluralized the same way as ordinary nouns—except for irregular nouns like “sheep,” “fish,” “children,” and others.

A family named “Child,” for example, would be pluralized as “the Childs.” And a family named “Childs” would be pluralized as “the Childses.”

However, names ending in “y” are treated differently from ordinary nouns ending in “y.”

When a name ends in “y,” it’s pluralized with “s” instead of “ies.” So a family named “Brady” would be pluralized as “the Bradys.” And three little girls named “Wendy” would be “three little Wendys.”

You’ll find these rules in all major usage guides, including Fowler’s Modern English Usage (rev. 3rd ed.), Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed.), Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, and Pat’s grammar and usage book Woe Is I (3rd ed.).

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