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

 The word family is one of these words that would look very different in Spanish or French. The English language borrows a lot of patterns from other languages but also makes up a lot of its own rules. Let’s take a look at the word family and when/how you would use the plural form.

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Is Families Plural or Singular?

To better understand a word and how it should be used, it is important to define it. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word family is defined as “the basic unit in society consisting of two parents rearing their children.” It is also defined as “a group of persons of common ancestry.” The word family has taken on many meanings over the years, especially in modern times, when an everyday family looks a little less traditional. People often refer to their closest friends as their family members because of the familiarity and closeness they feel to them. 

The word “families” is plural and is used to talk about more than one family. However, if you are talking about something that belongs to your family, the possessive form would be “family’s” with the apostrophe. The plural possessive would then be “families’.” This remains the same in both American English and British English.

How Do you Pluralize a Family Last Name?

Just as there are rules for plurals for regular nouns, there are also rules for proper nouns. Last name plurals are often used when referring to the family unit as a whole. For example, “the Kennedys” is referring to the entire Kennedy family. To refer to the Smith family, you would call them the Smiths. Something to keep in mind when you’re writing out greeting cards! 

For most family names, you would add an “-s” to make them plural. But when the last name ends with “ch”, “sh,” or “z” (basically, anything that makes a “z” sound), you would add an “-es” to make them plural. A good example of this is “Keeping up with the Joneses,” from the family name “Jones.”

For example, the Marsh family would be the “Marshes.” 

Of course, there are other exceptions to these rules, like if your name ends in “-ch” but is pronounced with the hard “k” sound, then you would only add an “s.” 

Simply add “the” to the plural of the family name, and you’re all set. 

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, family comes from the early 15th century from the meaning “servants of a household.” It is from the Latin word “familia,” meaning “family servants, domestics collectively.”

There are many derivatives of the word family, such as “famula,” meaning a “serving woman” or “famulanter,” which meant “in the manner of a servant.”

In the 1700s, the term “family tree” was around in reference to a graph of ancestral relations. In the 1960s, the phrase “family values” became popularized when referring to how appropriate something was for children. 

This is a good example of how words evolve and change over time because of culture and its influence. Words can quickly take on new meaning, so it is important to keep up to date on a word, so you don’t offend anyone or sound unintelligent. 

There are also many different kinds of families that exist today. The structure of a family has changed drastically over the last 50 years. 

  • A nuclear family is the most traditional type of family that consists of two parents and children. This used to be known as the “ideal” situation to raise children in. 
  • Another type of family is a single-parent family. This consists of one parent who is raising children on their own. This could be a single mother or single father. One in four children today are born to a single mother. 
  • An extended family consists of two or more adults who are related by blood or by marriage, living together. This could be multiple generations of parents and grandparents or an uncle or cousin. 
  • Another common family structure is a step-family. This is where a mother remarries, or a father remarries, and they live with their new spouse. This creates a “blended family,” which consists of multiple parents and can sometimes become difficult to navigate. 

There is no “correct” family structure because everyone is different. It depends on your family and how you get along with one another. 

Examples of the Word in Context

Another good way to learn a word and apply it to your own vocabulary is to hear it used properly.  Reading it or hearing a word used in its correct context is a great way to learn how to

use it yourself.  Here are some common examples of the word family used in conversation:

  • “John’s family offered to let his friend stay with them.”
  • “What is our family doing for dinner tonight?”
  • “Our families get along really well together.”
  • “I think you should talk to your family first before making the decision.”

Synonyms for Family

Finally, exploring words with similar or related meanings can be a great way to solidify a word into your own vocabulary.  Here are some common synonyms for the word family:

  • A clan is usually a group of people tracing descent from a common ancestor.
  • Kin is a group of persons of common ancestry or one’s relatives.
  • Lineage is a descent in a line from a common progenitor. 

In Summary

It is important to understand that the English language takes a lifetime to master. Many things about the language don’t make sense and require quite a bit of memorization. 

But now you are hopefully fully prepared to use the word family in any context, written or spoken. Good luck!