The Plural of Deer: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

If you have ever second-guessed yourself on what the plural form of deer was and also wanted to learn more about the word, it’s grammar, it’s history, and plenty of examples of it used in a sentence, this article is practically made for you!

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What Is the Definition of the Word Deer?

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the word deer has these definitions and uses. 

  •  Any of various slender-legged, even-toed, ruminant mammals (family Cervidae, the deer family) having usually brownish fur and deciduous antlers borne by the males of nearly all and by the females only of the caribou.
  • Archaic: animal
    • Especially a small mammal

Why Is It Deer and Not Deers?

The word deer can be singular and plural in its normal spelling. This word is similar to other animals/types of animals. Look at this in the same context as the irregular plural forms of fish and sheep. You can actually use the word deers, it is not widely used and typically is used when discussing two or more species of deer.

There are many words in the English language that follow this same rule of thumb as collective nouns. You might have been taught in the past that the plural noun deers is always incorrect but in reality, it can be used but perhaps it will not be accepted in class or on academic papers.

The History and Origin of the Word

If we take a look back into history, deer has an interesting path to its current meaning. The old English word for deer was deor. Deor was used to refer to animals both domesticated and also animals in the wild. It didn’t have a specific animal or type of animal but rather was a synonym for animal. Similarly, the Dutch word for animal is dier. 

As time progressed it went from being about animals wild and tamed to animals that were hunted. In England, a common animal to hunt was the red deer. At the time red deer were the most common animal to be hunted so it is fitting that it went from being such a generic definition to such a specific. Over the years following the term started to cover other animals that were similar to the red deer. So the definition went from being very general to very specific to sort of general again. 

The word deer was used back before the 12th century. The root of the English word deer came from the Old English deor beast. There is some similarity in this root word to the German word tior. The Germanic word tior is defined as a wild animal. There is also some similarity to the Lithuanian word dvasia which means breath and spirt but referred to all animals.

Examples of the Word in Context

Types of Deer

Subfamily Capreolinae

  • Brocket (genus Mazama)
  • Caribou or reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)
  • Moose (Alces alces)
  • Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
    • black-tailed deer (O. hemionus columbianus)
  • Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus and C. pygargus)
  • White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
    • Key deer (O. virginianus clavium)

Subfamily Cervinae

  • Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii)
  • Chital (Axis axis)
  • Fallow deer (Dama dama)
  • Muntjac (genus Muntiacus)
  • Père David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus)
  • Persian deer (Dama mesopotamica)
  • Red deer (Cervus elaphus)
    • Elk (C. elaphus canadensis)
  • Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
  • Sika (Cervus nippon)

Subfamily Hydropotinae

  • Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis)

Extinct Deer

  • Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus)

Ending

Now you are no doubt an expert on using the correct plural form of the word deer and hopefully also took away a lot more about the word. Next time you are writing a paper or doing your homework you can confidently use the correct plural form. I hope that you also took away some interesting knowledge/facts about deer today.

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deer
  2. https://ew.com/books/ryan-la-sala-be-dazzled-first-look/
  3. https://www.foxnews.com/science/covid-19-lockdown-reveals-human-impact-on-wildlife-researchers-say
  4. https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/outdoors/2020/08/08/bonus-antlerless-deer-permits-available-beginning-aug-17/3319583001/
  5. https://www.freep.com/in-depth/news/columnists/john-carlisle/2020/08/21/beaver-island-joe-moore-news-net/5596483002/
  6. https://www.outdoorlife.com/story/guns/forgotten-calibers-found-prairie-guns-225-winchester-307-winchester-244-remington/
  7. https://www.startribune.com/university-of-minnesota-botanist-discovers-feared-invasive-japanese-stiltgrass-in-wisconsin/572194862/
  8. https://www.fieldandstream.com/story/outdoor-gear/consider-before-buying-food-plot-seed/
  9. https://www.chicagotribune.com/pets/sns-wva-airport-dog-helps-wildlife-aircraft-encounters-20200825-uugeaxdqvng4fbjfgs3puhyefe-story.html