If you are married or hope to be married one day, you have probably used the word wife before. You have probably referred to the person you are married to as your wife. But when you are referring to more than one wife (you and your friend’s wife, for example), what is the correct spelling? The English language can be confusing when it changes the letters to make a word plural.
In this article, we’ll look at the correct plural for our word of the day, wife, the plural possessive version of the word, as well as the history and origin of the word.
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The first thing to do when learning about a word is to define it. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word wife as “a woman acting in a specific capacity, or a female partner in a marriage.” The correct plural form for the word wife is wives (pronounced waɪvz). Although is you are speaking about something that belongs to your wife, the correct word to use would be “wife’s.” If you are talking about more than one wife’s possession, it would be wives’.
Why Is the Plural of Wife Wives?
The English language has a lot of strange rules, especially when it comes to plural nouns. Most singular nouns, when pluralized, add an “s” to the end. But nouns ending in “y” when its a consonant get a “ies” ending. As for the singular form wife, it doesn’t actually follow any rule. You just have to memorize that some words that end with “f” or “fe” get changed to “ves.”
But this does not apply to all words like wife. For example, the word dwarf turns into dwarfs. However, the English author J.R.R Tolkien popularized the word “dwarves.” This spelling is appropriate when referring to fictional characters. For more information on this, refer to his The Lord of the Rings series.
Which Is Correct: Wife’s or Wives?
The answer to this is both. Depending on the context, you can use either. The singular possessive of the word wife is wife’s. However, the plural of the word wife is wives. For example, if you were talking about “your wife’s shoes.” If you had more than one wife (as in polygamy), it would be “your wives’ shoes.”
It may be difficult to keep track of all of these forms, but the more you practice, the easier it will get.
Is Wifes a Word?
The word “wifes” does not exist without an apostrophe making it possessive. However, it is a valid Scrabbles word. If you want to use the plural form of wife, it would be wives. It is a bit confusing that the word “wifes” exists, but it is not the proper spelling of more than one wife in English. This is because of English’s strange rules/non-rules.
The History and Origin of the Word
To get a better understanding of the word wife, let’s look at the history of the word and where it came from. According to the etymology, the word comes from a Germanic origin known as “wībam” or “woman.” In Old English, it took on the form of “wif.” The original meaning of wife did not concern marriage or a husband.
A woman on her wedding day is referred to as a bride, but after the wedding is called a wife.
In many cultures and traditionally, a wife is associated with motherhood and bearing children for the family. On the other hand, it is frowned upon in many cultures for a woman to have a child when she is not a wife. Of course, in America today, things are very different, and single mothers are widely accepted and normalized.
There a few other forms of the word wife such as “midwife” and “wives’ tale.” A midwife refers to a woman who assists in childbirth, originating in the 1300s. An “old wives’ tale is another word for an urban legend that is passed down through generations.
Although English often takes notes from other languages when it comes to words like this, the English wife is quite different from the Spanish esposa, the Italian moglie, the Swedish fru, or the German ehefrau.
Examples of the Word in Context
Seeing a word being used correctly can give you more confidence when using it. That is why example sentences can be helpful for people. Here are some examples of the word wife/wives.
My wife is coming back from her trip today.
Do you want to get the wives together for a potluck dinner?
What is your wife’s maiden name?
I really want to propose to my girlfriend and make her my wife.
What does your wife’s hometown look like in New York?
There are also many idioms associated with the word, like “Happy wife, happy life,” as married men often say.
Since there a technically three forms of this word, it is important to differentiate between them when using the word wife.
Synonyms for Wife
Another helpful way to understand a word better is to look at other words with similar definitions. This is where a thesaurus comes in handy.
While the word wife is the most technical term for a married woman, there are several other more vague ways to say it:
Spouse: ”a husband or wife, considered in relation to their partner.”
Partner: “either member of a married couple of an established unmarried couple.”
Mate: “a fellow member or joint occupant of a specified thing.”
These words mean almost the same thing as the word wife, except they are not gender-specific. A spouse, partner, or mate can refer to a male of a female in the relationship.
The word wife has been around for a long time in the English language. It has formed different connotations and can be used both negatively and positively. Of course, a happy marriage usually involves positively talking about your wife!
At the end of the day, the way that you talk about either one wife or multiple wives depends entirely on context and the environment. Hopefully, this article leaves you feeling more prepared for any encounter!
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.