Dwarfs vs. Dwarves: What’s The Difference?

If you have ever second-guessed yourself on what the plural form of dwarf was and also wanted to learn more about the word, its grammar, its history, and plenty of examples of it used in a sentence, you will be completely covered by this article.

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What Is the Definition of the Word Dwarf?

We all know of the old characters from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with all their funny different names. There’s also The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien that takes place in Middle-Earth with characters like Thorin Oakenshield. But how do we use this word in real-life? Let’s start by describing what a dwarf is and the definition of the word in its different forms in the English language.

Noun

  • a person of abnormally small stature owing to a pathological condition, especially one suffering from cretinism or some other disease that produces disproportion or deformation of features and limbs due to dwarfism
  • an animal or plant much smaller than the average of its kind or species.
  • (in folklore and sillier tales) an ancient people in the form of a small, often misshapen and ugly, man, usually having magic powers, similar to gnomes in appearance, speaking the language dwarvish
  • Astronomy

Adjective

  • of unusually small stature or size; diminutive.

Verb

  • to cause to appear or seem small in size, extent, character, etc., as by being much larger or better:
  • He dwarfed all his rivals in athletic ability.
  • to make dwarf or dwarfish; prevent the due development of.
  • to become stunted or smaller.

What Is the Difference Between Dwarfs and Dwarves?

Technically the grammatically correct plural of dwarf is dwarfs. How can it be that the correct dwarfs rather than dwarves? This might surprise you considering it has become more and more popular to use dwarves, especially since the year 2000. The Lord of the Rings book series used the plural form dwarves and might be one of the reasons for the rise in popularity for “dwarves” over “dwarfs”. Essentially, it’s an idiom that’s not 100% correct and is really a piece of private bad grammar.  

The History and Etymology of the Word

If you’re a philologist, the word dwarf was first recorded before the year 900 A.D. It can be traced back to Middle English “dwerf” and in Old English it was “dweorh”. “Dwerf” and “dworh” were replaced by the Middle English “dwerg” and Old English “dweorg”. This was the same as the Germanic “twerg” and the Old Norse word “dvergr”. 

Examples of the Word in Context

Synonyms of Dwarf

  • Midget
  • Pygmy
  • Hinder
  • Diminish
  • Dominate
  • Overshadow 
  • Petite
  • Diminutive
  • Pocket
  • Small
  • Low
  • Baby
  • Bantam
  • Homunculus
  • Dim 

Summary

You now know the only correct plural form of dwarf and also know some interesting facts surrounding the word — including the correct English spelling. You should be able to write it with confidence in its plural form and be able to know exactly what it means.

Sources:

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