Plural of Buffalo

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
The plural of buffalo is buffaloes or buffalos..

The Plural of Buffalo

The plural of buffalo is buffaloes or buffalos..
  • Buffaloes will engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators.
  • In some areas, buffalos are still hunted for meat.
The noun buffalo adheres to the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English (shown in the table below).

Are You Good at Plurals?

Here's a quick test.
Getting ready...

The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals

The table below shows the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.
Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns lamp
scythe
add s lamps
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z bus
dress
add es buses
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o buffalo
zero
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
buffaloes or buffalos
zeros
tomatoes
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
ratio
add s patios
ratios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
penny
change the y to an i and add es stories
pennies
Nouns ending [vowel] y storey ()
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
knife
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
knives
Exceptions man
louse
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change men
lice
More exceptions salmon
sheep
some nouns do not change at all salmon
sheep

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Buffalo?

There is confusion because the rule for forming plurals with nouns ending in o isn't straightforward. Most nouns will just add an s. For example:
  • Kangaroo becomes kangaroos.
  • Piano becomes pianos.
Some add es. For example:
  • Embargo becomes embargoes.
  • Torpedo becomes torpedoes.
With some words, both versions are accepted. For example:
  • Halo becomes haloes or halos.
  • Echo becomes echoes or echos.
The plural of buffalo can be either buffaloes or buffalos.. Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending o follow which rules. You have to know. (For example, you have to know that solo becomes solos, but potato becomes potatoes.)

Though buffaloes and buffalos are both accepted plurals, buffaloes is the more common of the two. (See the difference in Google's Ngram Viewer.)
Another Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from another exercise on plurals, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Unusual pluralsPlural forming table Quirks with forming plurals Forming the plurals of abbreviations Forming the plurals of compound nouns