Plural of Ox

The Quick Answer
The plural of ox is oxen.

The Plural of Ox

The plural of ox is oxen.
  • Oxen are thought to have first been harnessed and put to work around 4000 BC.
  • Steers are not regarded as fully grown until the age of 4, when they become known as oxen.
In English, most words ending in x will form their plural by adding -es to the word. The noun ox is an exception to this ruling. It has a Germanic root, which is the derivation of the plural oxen. After the 14th century, many words began to adopt the -s and -es way of forming plurals. Today, only a few en-forms survive; the most common are oxen and children.

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 dog
scythe
add s dogs
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z box
dress
add es boxes
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o hero
zero
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
heroes
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 donkey
chimney
add s donkeys
chimneys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
hoof
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
hooves or hoofs
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
Foreign rulings ox
medium
some nouns adopt foreign rulings oxen
media

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Ox?

Confusion arises over the plural of ox because its original plural form (oxen) derives from German and native English speakers are drawn to oxes, which adheres to the standard ruling for forming plurals.

See Also

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