Calfs or Calves: What’s the Difference?

Some English words form plurals easily. Words like rock, tree, and riverbed can be made plural by adding an –s to the end. These words are regular plurals.

Other times, pluralization is more complicated. Words wolf, shelf, and calf follow different rules. These words are irregular plurals.

But how do we form plurals for these words? In these instances, the plural is formed by substituting –ve ­for the ­f before adding –s.

Since every rule has its exceptions, there are still words ending in –lf that form regular plurals. They are rare, but they exist.

Is calf one of these rare exceptions? Continue reading to find out.

What is the Difference Between Calfs and Calves?

In this post, I will compare calfs vs calves. I will provide several example sentences. I will also explain a helpful memory trick that you can employ when you can’t remember whether calfs or calves is correct.

When to Use Calves

calve or calf muscles What does calves mean? Calves is the plural form of the word calf, which is a noun that refers to the young of some mammals or a section of the lower leg.

For example,

  • Mama’s cow Bessie had two calves, but one ran away to find a new life in the city.
  • The manatees nursed their calves in the still water.
  • All the football players had injured their calves by slipping on the wet turf.
  • Forget SoulCycle or Tracy Anderson or CrossFit or playing tennis or whatever other exercise you happen to be using to attain those trim bellies and toned calves. –The Wall Street Journal

When to Use Calfs

Definition of calves definition and definition of calfs definitionWhat does calfs mean? Calfs is not the correct way to spell this plural word. It should be spelled calves instead.

The same rule applies to similarly spelled words—half becomes halves, wolf becomes wolves, and shelf becomes shelves.

There are exceptions to every rule. For example, golf is pluralized into golfs, rather than golves; gulf likewise becomes gulfs. That being said, calf is not one of these exceptions.

You can see from the following chart that calves is the strongly preferred spelling of this word.

calfs versus calves

The occurrence of calfs in books written in English since 1800 is so low as to approximate zero.

Even though this chart is not scientific, it illustrates a clear long-term preference for calves in modern English.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define calves and define calfsYou don’t need much of a trick to remember calves vs. calfs because calves is the only correct spelling of the word. You should never use calfs, as this word represents a spelling error.

If you do, however, have any trouble remembering that calves is the only correct variant, remember that it is spelled with a V, just like the word victory. By using the world calves instead of calfs, you will have achieved victory over this common spelling error.

Summary

Is calfs or calves? Calves is the plural form of the word calf, which refers either to a baby animal or to a section of the leg below the knee.

  • Calves is the only correct spelling of this word.
  • Calfs is an incorrect spelling of this word, and is to be avoided.

To help you remember how to pluralize calf, remember that calves shares a V with the word victory. Victory over this misspelling comes with the use of calves over calfs.

To summarize,

  • Calves is the plural of calf.
  • Calfs is a misspelling.

If you still need help, you can always check this article for a quick refresher.

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