Home » Arts & Entertainment » Tolkein popularised “dwarves” as the plural of “dwarf” to differentiate his fantasy dwarves from humans with dwarfism, for whom the correct plural was “dwarfs”. The dwarf trope became so entrenched that “dwarves” is now widely recognised as the standard plural of “dwarf” even for humans

Tolkein popularised “dwarves” as the plural of “dwarf” to differentiate his fantasy dwarves from humans with dwarfism, for whom the correct plural was “dwarfs”. The dwarf trope became so entrenched that “dwarves” is now widely recognised as the standard plural of “dwarf” even for humans

Dwarfs vs. dwarves

Usage

Dwarfs is the standard plural of the noun dwarf. Dwarves is a newer variant popularized (though not invented) by English author J.R.R. Tolkien in his fantasy fiction works, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien spelling is appropriate when referring to little people in fantasy worlds. Dwarfs is better everywhere else. (There is controversy over whether dwarf is ever a polite term for real-life people, but we won’t go into that here.)

Dwarf also works as a verb meaning to cause to appear small in size. In this sense, dwarf is inflected dwarfs, not dwarves, in the third-person singular present tense.

The below ngram graphs the occurrence of the dwarfs and the dwarves (with the definite article to remove… Continue Reading (2 minute read)

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