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What’s the Plural of Deer? (Deer or Deers?)

Make no moose-take, the plural of deer is deer, sans -s (sans is French for 'without').


What’s the plural of “deer”?

A doe is a deer (a female deer), but what if you want to refer to more than one of the sweet doe? What’s the correct plural of deer, deer or deers?

  • The plural of deer is deer (without the “s” at the end).


  • Deers as a plural is nonstandard, and most sources advise against its use.



A note on the term nonstandard: nonstandard means something similar to, “non-conforming”, “nonconventional” or not the preferred method.


Nevertheless, even those sources that say certain words or phrases are nonstandard also admit that we recognize them as words that people use in English; and that they exist. Whether we ourselves endorse their usage is a separate matter.


Deer: singular & plural

Examples: “deer” used in sentences
singular We were lucky to spot a solitary deer during our hike in the woods.
pluralMale deer use their antlers to fight for breeding rights over females.

‍Because deer plural is deer, this makes the doe, a deer, an irregular noun in English: “regular” nouns attach an “-s” or “-es” to the end of the noun to create a plural. Irregular nouns end in something other than “s” or “-es”, or they show no change at all, as in the case of deer, and a select number of other nouns (see the chart below).


singularplural
sheepsheep
moosemoose
fishfish (sometimes fishes)
elkelk
deerdeer
bison bison (or bisons)


What are “deer”? Are they the same as “elk” or “moose”?

Deer refer to “ruminant mammals of the family Cervidae“. Cervidae is a family, i.e., the “deer” family (no pun intended), which includes several deer species, including moose and elk. In other words, moose and elk are both species within the cervidae or deer family; which means that both moose and elk are types or subspecies of deer.


Examples of sentences using “deer” (plural)

After their first growth, all male deer follow a yearly cycle of shedding and regrowing their antlers.

—Sciencing, “How Soon Do Male Deer Grow Antlers?

Male deer will use their hardened antlers to fight one another for breeding rights over females.

Female deer, known as does, have a different appearance and behavior pattern than their male counterparts.

—Sciencing, “How to Identify a Female Deer?

Female deer typically range from 50 to 250 pounds, and are approximately three feet tall when full grown.

—Sciencing, “How to Identify a Female Deer?

I slept in the sunshine on a large tussock and woke to the sound of deer walking on the hillside

—Ken Catania, “How to Hunt for Star-Nosed Moles (and Their Holes)


Group names & gender names for deer

  • Male deer are bucks, female deer are doe, and baby deer are a fawn, kid, or calf.

  • Deer in groups are “a herd”, as in, “a herd of deer“. Also, a mob, bunch, parcel, or rangale (e.g., “he smiled sweetly sitting amidst a rangale of deer grazing in the fields“.


Examples of “deer” in the media

People assume deer will learn to look both ways, and the dumb ones will be selected out of the population”.


—Helena Independent Record

Officials recently said Michigan’s 2014 deer hunting harvest was down about 15 percent from 2013, due in part to severe winter weather in recent years.


The Detroit News

‍Police said the deer didn’t seem to be seriously hurt.


—Rebecca Cohen, NBC News, 4 Dec. 2023


Origin of the word “deer”

Deer derives from the Old English word deor “wild animal, beast, any wild quadruped,” from Etymonline on deer.



In review: the plural of deer

  1. Deer shows no change between its singular and plural forms; i.e., both are just deer (without the “s”).

  2. This makes it an irregular noun form: regular plurals attach “s”/”es” to denote a plural.

  3. Because deer appears the exact same in both cases, we rely on other aspects within the sentence to give away the noun’s count.

  4. Some use deers as a plural, which is accepted though nonstandard and not preferred.


Read about other irregular nouns


Sources

  1. Plural of deer
  2. “Cervidae.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Cervidae. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.Wikipedia contributors.
  3. “Family (biology).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Dec. 2023. Web. 17 Dec. 2023.
  4. Terms for male/female deer

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