Connect
To Top

Pluralizing Last Names: Never Use an Apostrophe

Pluralizing Last Names: Never Use an Apostrophe

One way in which nouns differ from other grammatical forms in the English language is grammatical number. Prototypical English nouns have both singular and plural forms. The holiday season often causes problems for English users when mailing out seasonal cards. While some last names are easy to pluralize (Johnson becomes Johnsons), others are trickier (Does Cleary become Clearies or Clearys?). Learn the rules for pluralizing last names in English with the following guide.

Surname Spelling Rules

To form the plural of most surnames in English, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. Note that names that end in -lf do not follow the same rule as other regular nouns (change the -f to a -v and add -es) but rather simply take an -s. For example, the following list includes the singular and plural forms of some common last names:

  • Anderson – Andersons
  • Baker – Bakers
  • Campbell – Campbells
  • Clark – Clarks
  • Defoe – Defoes
  • Garcia – Garcias
  • Goldberg – Goldbergs
  • Gray – Grays
  • Hall – Halls
  • Howard – Howards
  • Kim – Kims
  • King – Kings
  • Lee – Lees
  • Li – Lis
  • Long – Longs
  • Patel – Patels
  • Petrov – Petrovs
  • Shea – Sheas
  • Silverberg – Silverbergs
  • Smith – Smiths
  • Thompson – Thompsons
  • White – Whites
  • Wilson – Wilsons
  • Wolf – Wolfs
  • Wu – Wus
  • Zelenak – Zelenaks

For most nouns that end in a final y preceded by a consonant, the y changes to an i followed by the ­es suffix. However, for all surnames that end in a y, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example, the following list includes the singular and plural forms of some common last names that end in consonant and y:

  • Avery – Averys
  • Chowdhury – Chowdhurys
  • Duffy – Duffys
  • Fernsby – Fernsbys
  • Gregory – Gregorys
  • Kelly – Kellys
  • Kennedy – Kennedys
  • McCarthy – McCarthys
  • Montgomery – Montgomerys
  • Murphy – Murphys
  • Perry – Perrys
  • Petrovsky – Petrovskys
  • Terry – Terrys

For surnames that end in an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh and [s], [z], [š], or [č] sound, add the suffix -es to the end of the name. For example:

  • Aarons – Aaronses
  • Beach – Beaches
  • Bush – Bushes
  • Chuks – Chukses
  • Church – Churches
  • Collins – Collinses
  • Das – Dases
  • Diaz – Diazes
  • Felix – Felixes
  • Fox – Foxes
  • Ghosh – Ghoshes
  • Gonzalez – Gonzalezes
  • Holz – Holzes
  • Jaz – Jazes
  • Jones – Joneses
  • Ramirez – Ramirezes
  • Rogers – Rogerses
  • Ross – Rosses
  • Vasquez – Vasquezes

For surnames that end in a -ch and [k] sound, add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example:

  • Albach – Albachs
  • Bach – Bachs
  • Dallenbach – Dallenbachs
  • Dietrich – Dietrichs
  • Emmerich – Emmerichs
  • Freidrich – Freidrichs
  • Heinrich – Heinrichs
  • Koch – Kochs
  • Reich – Reichs

For surnames that end in a silent -x, add the suffix -s to the end of the name. For example:

  • Babineaux – Babineauxs
  • Brasseaux – Brasseauxs
  • Couteaux – Couteauxs
  • Delcroix – Delcroixs
  • Devereaux – Devereauxs
  • Robichaux – Robichauxs
  • Thibodeaux – Thibodeauxs

Apostrophes

For the most part, pluralizing surnames in the English language follows the same rules as pluralizing other nouns. One common mistake that many writers make when pluralizing a last name is to use an apostrophe. However, in the English language, the affixation of the possessive clitic (‘s [apostrophe s] or s’ [s apostrophe]) forms a possessive noun, not a plural. Never use an apostrophe to form the plural of a surname. Never!

Similar to regular nouns, last names that end an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh and [s], [z], [š], or [č] sound take the suffix -es to form the plural. For all other surnames including names that end in a consonant and y, -ch and [k] sound, and silent -x, simply add the suffix -s to the end of the name. If in doubt of a plural form of a last name, try the alternative The X Family as in The Johnson Family, which requires no pluralization. And never, ever use an apostrophe to create the plural form of a surname.

See also Regular Plural Nouns in English, Types of English Affixes: Derivational and Inflectional Prefixes and Suffixes, and Possessive Nouns in English.

More in Information

  • Word Matrix: Pink

    <pink> “pale red color” meaning “pale rose color” first recorded 1733 “small” from Dutch pink “small” Word Sums pink Pink +...

    Heather JohnsonApril 18, 2019
  • Word Matrix: Yester

    <yester> “former, earlier, previous” from Old English geostran “yesterday” Words Sums Yester Yester + s = yesters Yester + Day =...

    Heather JohnsonApril 16, 2019
  • Word Matrix: Somn

    <somn> “sleep” from somnus “sleep” Words Sums Somn + us = somnus Somn + o + G(e)n(e) = somnogen Somn +...

    Heather JohnsonApril 15, 2019
  • Are ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Today’, and ‘Tomorrow’ Nouns or Adverbs?

    Are the words yesterday, today, and tomorrow adverbs or nouns? Oxford Living Dictionaries identifies all three words as an adverb first...

    Heather JohnsonApril 14, 2019
  • Lies Your Grammar Teacher Told You: Singular and Plural

    I recently shared a photo across my social media accounts of the grammar textbook that I currently use with my oldest....

    Heather JohnsonApril 6, 2019