Dwarfs or Dwarves – What’s the Difference?

Forming English plurals can sometimes be tricky. Most words simply add an -s to the end, while others change their final letters to accommodate pluralization. It can be difficult to remember which words belong in which camp. This difficulty has led to multiple spellings of many plural words.

Not all of these spelling variants are considered correct, though. Consider dwarfs and dwarves. If you have ever watched a fantasy movie or encountered a fan of the genre, you have likely heard someone say dwarves out loud. Is this the correct spelling, though?

What is the Difference Between Dwarfs and Dwarves?

In this post, I will compare dwarves vs. dwarfs. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see how they appear in context.

I will also use a memory tool, called a mnemonic device, that will allow you to choose dwarves or dwarfs correctly every time.

When to Use Dwarfs

definition of dwarves definition of dwarfs definitionWhat does dwarfs mean? Dwarfs is a noun. It is the plural form of dwarf, where dwarf is either a human with genetically-based unusual short stature, or a creature who appears in fantasy literature.

Human dwarfs are usually defined as having an adult height of less than 4’10”. Dwarfs have a normal intelligence and lifespan, but may suffer from muscular-skeletal disorders.

In the fantasy genre, dwarfs are small, and males have thick beards. They are usually portrayed as being skillful miners who spend most of their time living underground and hoarding wealth.

For example,

  • There were two dwarfs in my graduating class at school, and one of them now goes to UCLA.
  • The dwarfs made war with the elves, and though the elves drove them back into their underground fortresses, their sieges were unsuccessful.

Dwarf can also be a verb, and dwarfs is one conjugation of it. It means to make something appear small.

For example,

  • There are many tall buildings in Chicago, but the Sears Tower dwarfs them all by comparison.

When to Use Dwarves

define dwarves define dwarfsWhat does dwarves mean? Dwarves is an alternate spelling of dwarfs. It is not a standard spelling either as a plural noun or a verb, but it still occasionally appears and appears to be growing in use.

dwarfs versus dwarves

This chart, which graphs dwarfs vs. dwarves, shows that dwarfs is about three times more common, but dwarves still occasionally appears.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Whether you are using the word as a noun or a verb, the correct choice is dwarfs. Dwarves, while somewhat common, is not an accepted spelling of this verb.

What is the plural of dwarf? Since dwarf rhymes with wharf, and they both form plurals by adding a simple -s, you can use these rhyming words to choose dwarfs instead of dwarves.

Summary

Is it dwarfs or dwarves? Dwarfs is a plural noun that means a human who is shorter than normal or a fantasy creature. It can also be a verb that means to makes something appear smaller by comparison. Dwarves is a common misspelling that should be avoided.

To sum up,

  • Use dwarfs in all contexts.
  • Avoid dwarves.