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What’s the Plural of Elk? Elk or Elks?

Elk (not to be confused with moose and deer, though they all belong to the same Cervid family) is elk or elks, as a plural noun.



What’s the plural of “elk”?

  • The plural of elk is elk.


  • Elks is also used as a plural, though it’s less common than elk without the “s”. Some sources say it’s nonstandard, and to avoid its use.


Examples: “elk” used in sentences
singularI see a lone bull elk out yonder!
pluralThis area is home to plenty of elk, deer and moose.


Because elk stays the same as a singular and plural noun, we use the broader context of the sentence to give away the whether the noun is singular or plural, (i.e., whether one or more than one is being mentioned). More on this to come.



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

Elk (or cervus canadensis, in Latin), deer and moose all belong to the same family or species, Cervidae. However, though they’re all part of the same family, there are still differences between these subspecies:


  • Elk specifically are a subspecies of the red deer. We can tell elk apart from its deer relatives, (no pun intended), by their larger size, and because elk antlers are bigger than deer antlers.

  • Elk, also called wapiti in Cree, (meaning “light-coloured deer”) are the “largest and most advanced sub-species of the red deer”, according to Brittanica on elk.



Nouns that stay the same singular and plural

Earlier I said we can look to a sentence’s context, along with its other grammatical aspects to determine a noun’s count. Take a look:

Singular: I see an elk grazing in the field over there!


Plural: There are elk grazing on the hill below the tree line.


To make a noun’s count crystal clear, you can include a collective name which indicates more than one (e.g., “a herd of elk“). Otherwise, the use of the verb “are” in the second sentence immediately signals a plural subject, and the article “an” in the first sentence denotes a singular.


Elk may be irregular since it remains the same as a singular/plural, but it’s not the only word in English to behave this way. In fact, close relatives of the elk, namely deer and moose, also stay the same as a singular and plural and omit the “s” typically used to denote a plural noun. That said, while elks is still accepted, it’s considered nonstandard.


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



Names for a baby, male, female and group of elk

  • Male elk are bulls, female elk are cows, and a baby elk is a calf.

  • Elk found in groups are a herd; e.g., “a herd of elk are grazing the fields“.



“Elk”, examples from the media

Game and Fish investigators said the woman, whose name was not released, had injuries consistent with being trampled by an elk.


CBS News, 8 Nov. 2023

In 2021, a woman received serious head injuries from an elk that had become habituated to humans in Pine.


—Patrick Smith, NBC News, 8 Nov. 2023

Cow elk communicate to other cows, as well as their calves, by mewing or chirping, another elk vocalization that can be heard for a significant distance.


—Scott Bestul, Field & Stream, 28 Sep. 2023


Examples of elk, singular, in sentences

We were fortunate to spot a solitary elk during our hike in the wilderness.

An elk stood regally at the edge of the forest, surveying its surroundings.

The elusive elk moved gracefully through the thick pine forest.

A lone elk wandered near the riverbank, taking occasional sips of water.

The ranger could spot the elk from a mile away.


Examples of elk, plural, in sentences

The land around the ranch is a protected wintering area for elk, deer and bighorn sheep.

The disease can cause female bison, cattle, and elk to abort their fetuses.

Most elk are hunted in the forest, although I do know of migrational paths that change that story.

It provides early spring forage not only for cattle and sheep, but for wild ruminants as well, including deer, bison, elk, and moose.

It is also home to deer, elk and moose, and the rivers and lakes are alive with fish.

Etymology of elk

From etymonline on elk:

“Old English elch, from Old Norse elgr or from an alteration of Old English elh, eolh.’



Read about other confusing plurals



Sources

  1. Example sentences of elk.
  2. National geographic, elk.
  3. Origin of the word elk.
  4. Geist, Valerius. “elk”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 7 Dec. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/animal/elk-mammal. Accessed 16 December 2023.
  5. Wikipedia contributors. “List of cervids.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 Sep. 2023. Web. 16 Dec. 2023.


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