Mothers Day or Mother's Day: What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 5, 2023

You know that annual holiday where we celebrate our mothers? Do you write it 'Mothers Day' or 'Mother's Day'? That's what we're here to find out. In this article, we'll dive into the use of apostrophes when writing the name of this popular celebration.

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 that 'Mother's Day' is the only correct way to spell it. 

What Is Mother's Day?

Before we dive in, what exactly is Mother's Day? The movement for a special day to honor mothers began in the early 20th century. Anna Jarvis, an American woman, is often credited as the driving force behind the establishment of Mother's Day. After her own mom's death in 1905, Jarvis sought to create a day to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She wanted a day that would be called "Mother's Day" and celebrated with expressing love and gratitude to mothers.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, and it became an annual holiday after that. Over time, the celebration has spread to many countries worldwide, although the timing and customs may vary.

Interestingly, Anna later disagreed with the holiday celebration, arguing that it had become too commercialized and was overshadowed by profit-making motives. She famously said:

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.

Nonetheless, the tradition survived, and to this day, it is still a day when people express their love and appreciation for their mothers through gifts, cards, and special gestures.

Is There an Apostrophe in Mother's Day?

A quick lesson on apostrophes might be in order here. Don't worry; I'll keep it short and sweet. An apostrophe can do two things:

  • Stand for omitted letters.
    They are → they're
  • To form a possessive noun.
    That is Ben's pencil.

'Mother's' is a Possessive Noun

It's that second purpose that we're going to talk about now. The word 'mother' in 'Mother's Day' was intended to be a possessive noun to show that the day belongs to mothers.

When we write it 'Mothers Day' without an apostrophe, 'mothers' is a plural noun that serves as a modifier for the word 'day.' Technically, it's grammatically correct to write it that way, but it's incorrect to write the annual holiday that way because we need to use the possessive form.

That's why the correct way to write it is 'Mother's Day.'

Why Isn't It 'Mothers' Day'?

A possessive noun shows ownership or a relationship between two things. Based on that logic, both 'Mother's Day' and 'Mothers' Day' should be correct, right? One refers to a single mother, and the other refers to many mothers.

Technically, yes, that's correct. So, we just need to figure out whether the day belongs to one mother (singular) or multiple mothers (plural).

Anna Jarvis's intention when creating this holiday was to have one special day where we celebrate our mother in an individual sense. To use the noun in the singular sense makes it about our mom, not all moms. Following that logic, the correct spelling should be 'Mother's Day.'

  • But it's actually even simpler than that. Mother's Day is an official holiday, so we needn't worry about grammatical conventions; we just spell it the way it was originally written by the people who created the holiday, and that's 'Mother's Day.' 

Hopefully, this helps you see why even though 'Mother's Day' and 'Mothers' Day' are both technically correct, we use the spelling 'Mother's Day'.

Should You Capitalize 'Mother's Day?'

You might have noticed throughout this article that I have been capitalizing the words 'Mother' 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 Mother'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 'mother' on its own isn't a proper noun, and neither is 'day.'

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

My mother is an amazing cook, and her homemade lasagna is my favorite dish.

Tomorrow is the big day; I can't wait to finally graduate from high school.

I plan to surprise my mother by spending the entire day with her at a spa.

Both words are always capitalized when used together to form the compound proper noun 'Mother's Day.'

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 'Mother's Day' in sentences.

Here they are:

Every year, my family gathers for a special brunch on Mother's Day to honor and appreciate our wonderful moms.

I bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to give to my mom on Mother's Day as a token of my love and gratitude.

This year, we're planning a family picnic in the park to celebrate Mother's Day and enjoy quality time together.

On Mother's Day, it's a tradition in our household to prepare a delicious dinner and pamper my mom with gifts.

The school organized a lovely Mother's Day event where students could create handmade cards and gifts for their mothers. 

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 'Mother's Day'.
  • Apostrophes make a noun possessive.
  • 'Mothers 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, 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.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for 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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