Museum Musings: what’s the plural of dwarf?

I was restocking the postcards this afternoon when a middle-aged couple approached me.

“Do you work here,” she asked.


“Is English your home language?” he asked


“How do you spell the plural of dwarf?” they asked.

“D-w-a-r-f?” I said. They nodded, “I’d spell it… D-w-a-r-v-e-s.”

“See?” she said. No I didn’t see.

He took out his iPhone and showed me, “It’s spelled dwarfs,”

“You owe me a chocolate,” she said

“Wait a minute. Look here,” he said, “It’s also spelled dwarves.”

Rimma and Alex were Russians who spoke five languages. I thought I spoke English.


According to Merriam-Webster’s on Line Dictionary  both spellings are correct

Main Entry: 1dwarf

Pronunciation: \ˈdwȯrf\

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): plural dwarfs \ˈdwȯrfs\ also dwarves \ˈdwȯrvz\

Wikipedia says that many nouns ending in /f/ or /θ/ retain the voiceless consonant:

  • moth moths
  • proof proofs

Some can do either:

  • dwarf – dwarfs/dwarves
  • hoof   – hoofs/hooves

Note: For dwarf, the common form of the plural was dwarfs—as, for example, in Walt Disney‘s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—until J. R. R. Tolkienpopularized dwarves; he intended the changed spelling to differentiate the “dwarf” fantasy race in his novels from the cuter and simpler beings common in fairy tales, but his usage has since spread.

How do you spell it?

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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5 Responses to Museum Musings: what’s the plural of dwarf?

  1. E fullstop says:

    Dwarves. Except that this online spellchecker tells me it’s wrong and must thus be dwarfs. Indeed.

  2. Anne Lagace Dowson says:

    I am the Mother of a small girl who is a “dwarf”. I find the term offensive and vastly prefer to call her a person of small stature. I think it may be time to move beyond this term as it is almost always pejorative.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for writing. I understand and agree with you that the term “dwarf” is offensive, but I was writing about the inconsistencies of the English language.

  3. Jingle says:

    nice post..
    different people have different opinions!

  4. Jingle says:

    24 hours to vote for 15 of your favorite poets,
    many thanks!

    u rock!

    poets are not limited to the lists,
    please feel free to vote any poets you know who deserve to win…

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