'Oxen' or 'Oxes': What is the Plural of 'Ox'?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on October 28, 2022

The word ‘ox’ can be one of the more confusing words to pluralize when it comes to English nouns. But this article will cover that and how to use the word appropriately in a sentence.

To keep it short, the plural form of the word ‘ox’ is ‘oxen.’ It is never correct to say ‘oxes.’

Why Do We Say ‘Oxen’ and Not ‘Oxes’

It might be tempting to pluralize the word ‘ox’ by saying ‘oxes’ because that’s what the standard pluralization rules call for.

Standard Pluralization Rules

The standard pluralization rules for English nouns is to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ to nouns to make the plural form.

Take a look at some examples:

  • Notebook > Notebooks
  • Pen > Pens
  • Writer > Writers
  • Match > Matches
  • Watch > Watches
  • Touch > Touches

But some words follow a different set of rules. For example, some nouns change vowels in their plural form.

Check out a few examples:

Since ‘ox’ doesn’t exactly follow this rule or the traditional rule, what rule is it following?

The Plural of ‘Ox’

The plural of ‘ox,’ as you learned above, is ‘oxen.’ While some might think the plural form is ‘oxes,’ that’s actually incorrect.

Why is the Plural ‘Oxen’?

The plural of ‘oxen’ is the only correct way to pluralize ‘ox.’ The reason behind this is that the English language breaks a lot of its own rules, mainly because words have different origins. The English language is made up of hundreds of different languages. And the Greeks pluralized words differently than the Latins, and so on and so forth. That makes English a pretty challenging language to learn for non-native speakers (and even native speakers sometimes). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The word ‘ox’ follows the same rules as words like:

  • Child > Children
  • Person > People
  • Mouse > Mice
  • Die > Dice

The rule here is confusing because the endings of these words change drastically with little explanation.

Is it Acceptable to Use ‘Oxes’ 

It’s never acceptable to use ‘oxes.’ It’s not grammatical.

Definition and Meaning

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘ox’ is “a domestic bovine mammal” and “an adult castrated male domestic ox.”

Cambridge’s definition is “a bull (=male cow) that has had its reproductive organs removed, used in the past for pulling heavy things on farms, or more generally, any adult of the cattle family.”

Using Both Forms in a Sentence

After learning more about how to pluralize the word and why it’s pluralized that way, as well as defining the word, you should feel comfortable enough to use it in a sentence now.

Here are a few examples of how to use it in singular form:

  • That ox weighs almost 400 pounds!
  • The ox in that field is all alone.
  • I don’t think that ox likes that very much.

Check out some examples of how to use it in plural form:

  • The oxen in the field are roaming happily.
  • Oxen are not my favorite animal.
  • The oxen exhibit is probably the least interesting.

Singular and Plural Possessive Forms

The singular possessive form of the word ‘ox’ is ‘ox’s.’ The plural possessive form of the word is ‘oxen’s.’

The rules for plurals and possessions are:

To show possession, use an apostrophe and an ‘s’ when dealing with a singular noun.

To show possession when a plural noun ends in ‘s,’ put the apostrophe after the ‘s.’

Here’s how to use the singular possessive form in a sentence:

  • The ox’s fur is getting pretty thick now.
  • The ox’s eyes look so sad; I wonder if he’s okay.
  • The ox’s coat is beautiful; it reminds me of a cow.

Here’s how to use the plural possessive form in a sentence:

  • The oxen’s field is a bit small compared to what they’re used to.
  • The oxen’s owner doesn’t want to sell them.
  • The oxen’s teeth are bigger than my son’s fingers.

Concluding Thoughts on Using ‘Ox’ and ‘Oxen’

Now that you’re well-versed in how to pluralize the word ‘ox,’ you know its plural form is ‘oxen’ and not ‘oxes.’

The key to remembering this is to know that it doesn’t follow the traditional rules for the English pluralization of nouns. That means it’s similar to words like mouse and die.

If you find yourself getting stuck on confusing words or confusing spellings often, check out our library of confusing words.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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