Presidents' Day or President's Day: What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 2, 2023

Once a year, most states in America honor past leaders in a celebration called President's Day. Or is it Presidents' Day? In this article, we'll find out what this holiday represents, how to spell it, and how to use it in a sentence.

Just want the quick version?

  • I'm sorry to tell you that in this case, there isn't one. Both spellings are correct. If you want to find out why and need help deciding which one to pick, read on.

What Is Presidents’ Day?

Presidents' Day is a federal holiday in the United States that is celebrated on the third Monday of February each year.

  • Originally established in 1885 to honor George Washington's birthday, which falls on February 22, the holiday is now generally seen as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, both past and present.

Funny enough, while the official name for the holiday is "Washington's Birthday," it is widely known and celebrated as Presidents' Day. Or President's Day. Or Presidents Day. Or Washington's Day. Or George Washington Day. Yeah, the list goes on. But you get the point. There are many different names for this holiday, as well as spellings.

Where Is the Apostrophe in Presidents' Day?

A quick lesson on apostrophes is in order to understand why All Saints' 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.
    You are → You're
  • To form a possessive noun.
    That's my mom's car.

President's and Presidents' 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: John's car is parked in the driveway.
  • Plural possessive noun: The workers' dedication to their tasks was obvious.

Now we understand better the difference between President's and Presidents': one is a singular possessive noun, and one is a plural possessive noun. So which one should you use?

  • That depends on the style guide you use, the state you live in, or which spelling you think makes the most sense.

What About Presidents Day?

Some holidays are spelled without using an apostrophe at all, like Veterans Day. Some think that's how Presidents Day should be spelled, and if you agree, you wouldn't be wrong.

When we write Presidents Day without an apostrophe, 'presidents' is a plural noun that serves as a modifier for the word 'day.' Technically, it's grammatically correct to write it that way

So How Should I Spell It?

At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide how you'd like to spell this holiday name. Firstly, I'd recommend checking the preferred spelling in the state you live in or are planning to visit.

  • If you follow the Associated Press Stylebook's recommendation, you'll write Presidents Day, with 'presidents' acting as a modifier for the word 'day.'
  • The Chicago Manual of Style prefers the plural possessive Presidents' Day.
  • Some other style guides opt for the singular possessive President's Day.
  • The official name is Washington's Day.

What do you prefer? The best thing to do is to pick your preferred spelling and stick with it, just like I have in this article. To me, the plural possessive spelling "Presidents' Day' makes the most sense since it's a day to honor all presidents, past, present, and future.

Should You Capitalize Presidents' 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 Presidents' and Day.'

  • Regarding capitalization, the rule is pretty straightforward: always capitalize proper nouns.
  • Names of holidays are considered proper nouns, and Presidents' Day is considered the name of a 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 'president' on its own isn't a proper noun, and neither is 'day.'

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

The president delivered a powerful speech last night.

Next week, the president is scheduled to meet with foreign leaders.

Every day, she takes a morning walk in the park to start her day with fresh air and exercise.

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 All Saints' Day in sentences.

Here they are:

On Presidents' Day, my friends and I have a tradition of binge-watching documentaries about the quirky habits of past presidents.

I always forget if it's George Washington's or Abraham Lincoln's birthday on Presidents' Day, but I never forget the great sales at the mall!

Presidents' Day is like the Oscars for history buffs – we gather around, make popcorn, and debate our favorite presidents.

My dog doesn't understand why we have a day named after presidents, but he sure loves the extra walk we take on Presidents' Day.

On Presidents' Day, our neighborhood hosts a unique celebration where residents display their talents.  

Concluding Thoughts

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

  • The spellings "President's Day" and Presidents' Day" are both correct.
  • "Presidents Day" is also correct.
  • Apostrophes make a noun possessive. 
  • It's the name of a holiday, so both words should be capitalized when used together.
  • Choose a spelling and stick with it.

If you'd like to learn about more national holidays and get clarity on how to spell and use them in your writing, check out our dedicated blog about confusing words. 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 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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