Father's Day or Fathers' Day: Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 7, 2023

Every year, we pay tribute to our fathers on the day known as 'Father's Day.' Or is it 'Fathers' Day?' If you're wondering how to spell it, look no further. In this article, we'll learn the correct spelling for the annual holiday and why it's written that way.

If you just want the quick version, here it is:

  • You should always use an apostrophe when you write the name of this annual holiday. That means 'Father's Day' is the only correct way to spell it.  

What Is Father's Day?

Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and father figures, including grandfathers, stepfathers, and foster fathers, as well as the influence of fathers in society. It is observed in various countries around the world, although the date may differ.

In the United States, Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year. The idea for Father's Day is credited to Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to create a day to honor fathers like her own father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and single parent who raised six children. She had been inspired by the recently created Mother's Day.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father's Day a federal holiday. It is a time for children to express their love and appreciation for their fathers or father figures. This can be done through various means, such as giving cards, gifts, or spending quality time together. It is also common for families to organize special activities or meals to celebrate the occasion.

Where is the Apostrophe in Father's Day?

A quick lesson on apostrophes is in order to understand why Father's Day is spelled the way it is. Don't worry; I'll keep it short and sweet.

An apostrophe can do two things:

  • Stand for omitted letters.
    She is → she's
  • To form a possessive noun.
    That is my parents' house.

Father's and Fathers' are Possessive Nouns

It's that second purpose that we're going to talk about now. There are two types of possessive nouns: singular and plural. They both show ownership or a relationship between two people/things. But the difference is that with a singular possessive noun, the ownership is to a single person or thing, whereas with a plural possessive noun, the ownership is to multiple people or things. Let's look at some examples:

  • Singular possessive noun: The cheetah's spots are black.
  • Plural possessive noun: The students' projects were displayed at the school exhibition. 

Now we understand better the difference between father's and fathers: one is a singular possessive noun, and one is a plural possessive noun. So which one should you use? Technically, they both make sense grammatically. The day can belong to a single father or to all fathers.

  • In this case, as with all proper nouns, we need to look to the original intended spelling.
  • After all, if someone tells you their name is spelled in a certain way, you're not going to argue with them, even if it doesn't make sense, are you?

Because it's their name, they can spell it how they like.

The deal with Father's Day is that the word 'father' was intended to be a singular possessive noun to show that the day belongs to each family's individual father. In that way, they followed the same tradition as Mother's Day, which is also a singular possessive noun. That's why we spell it Father's Day.

Why Isn't It Fathers Day?

Another alternative spelling that we sometimes see is Fathers Day, without any apostrophe. When you spell it like that, it's no longer a possessive noun. It's just a simple plural noun. It's grammatically incorrect to spell it this way because it doesn't make any sense. If we wanted to use the plural noun fathers, we would have to change the sentence structure.

Here are some examples:

Today is a day to celebrate all fathers.

We should celebrate all fathers on this day.

They wished their fathers a great day.

Should You Capitalize Father's Day?

Okay, so we've covered the correct spelling of this phrase and the reasons why. You might have noticed throughout this article that I have been capitalizing the words 'Father' and 'Day.'

As far as capitalization goes, the rule is pretty straightforward: always capitalize proper nouns. A national holiday is considered a proper noun, and Father's Day is considered a national holiday, so the words should be capitalized when you use them together.

If you use the words separately, that's a different story. The term 'father' on its own isn't a proper noun, and neither is 'day.'

Here are some examples of these words used as common nouns:

Every father looks forward to spending quality time with their children on this special day.

She decided to organize a picnic to celebrate her father's day off from work. 

He decided to take the day off, and his children happily joined him for a spontaneous adventure.

Example Sentences

Now that we've covered the proper use of apostrophes and when to capitalize the words, let's look at some examples of the term Father's Day in sentences.

Here they are:

We're planning a special surprise for dad on Father's Day.

Father's Day is a time to celebrate and appreciate the important men in our lives.

I head back to my parents' house every year for Father's Day and Mother's Day.

On Father's Day, we traditionally exchange gifts and share a special meal together.

She made dinner while her dad relaxed on Father's Day. 

Concluding Thoughts

That brings us to the end of this article about this popular holiday. Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Always use the apostrophe in 'Father's Day'.
  • Apostrophes make a noun possessive. 'Father's Day' is never correct. It's a national holiday, so both words should be capitalized when used together.

If you'd like to learn about more national holidays and how to spell them correctly, check out our dedicated blog. There, you'll find many other articles like this one, where you can learn how to spell holiday names correctly.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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