Scarves vs Scarfs

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Lev269, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. Lev269 New Member

    New York
    My 10-year-old daughter brought home a spelling test in which she had written "scarves" as the plural of "scarf." The teacher marked it wrong, saying that the plural of "Scarf" is "Scarfs." It is my understanding that either can be used, and that it is more common to use scarves when talking about items that can be wound around ones neck. I would like to know more about this. Is one more correct that the other? Is "Scarfs" used primarily when talking about two pieces of wood? Thanks
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hello Lev, and welcome to the forums:)

    I'd have said that only "scarves" was right, and "scarfs" was wrong.

    But I've checked the Concise Oxford Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and evidently both are possible, even for the "material wound round the neck" meaning. So it seems I was mistaken....

    That said, I'm sure your daughter's teacher was wrong to mark "scarves" incorrect!:eek:
  3. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Welcome from me too, Lev:)

    I would have said exactly the same as Loob. (I've never heard of scarf meaning 'piece of wood', though.)

    Scarfs looks so odd that I'm tempted to say I've never seen it before.
  4. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    When I was going to school, there was always a dictionary in the classroom -- the ponderous Webster's Unabridged was quite common in several school systems I was in. But any brand or edition should suffice -- I just checked three different American dictionaries and they all list both scarves and scarfs.

    It might be as easy as your daughter looking it up in the classroom dictionary and showing it to the teacher. If there isn't one, just have your daughter tell the teacher that she's thinking of buying a dictionary and would like a recommendation -- then go to the library or the bookstore and look it up in that one.

    I know scarfs exists, but like Loob and ewie, I don't think I've ever seen it used.
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Greetings Lev269,

    In addition to the good advice given by others, you might wish to print out the following and have your daughter offer it to the teacher, with a polite request for "further clarification".

  6. angelofsky New Member

    Singapore - Chinese
    Actually the word "scarfs" do exist, it is the original plural form of scarf. But "scarves" is not wrong too, since it has been accepted in the dictionary, it might be that the teacher of your daughter prefers original spelling? It could be the english language teaching book that her teacher uses might provide only 1 answer.
  7. Lev269 New Member

    New York
    Thanks so much, everyone, for your quick replies! I've sent a note to the teacher, and I'll see what she says.
  8. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    I have never seen or heard scarfs used as a plural of scarf in AE. Scarves is the usual form--both spoken and written. It is a similar plural to other words ending in
    -f: leaf/leaves, sheaf/sheaves, wolf/wolves, wharf/wharves, etc.

    <Moderator has removed off-topic comments which led to many now deleted off-topic posts. All are invited to stick to the thread topic.>
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2010
  9. mplsray Senior Member

    Interestingly enough, the editors of The Century Dictionary, an American dictionary of 1895 available online here, considered the plural scarves to be outdated:

  10. mjscott Senior Member

    Colloquially, to scarf something down means to eat it as quickly as possibly; devouring it as quickly as possible.
    Example: He scarfed down the cookies before anyone could even see them.

    In such a case, I would use scarfs for the second person singular form of to scarf.

    If it is bandanas you are talking about, I use scarves.

    BRAVO FOR MAMA, for showing her daughter some chutzpah in researching why their answer is wrong, finding out that maybe it isn't wrong, and speaking up for herself! Good luck!
  11. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The timber frame house I live in has many scarfs, but since it is in California, we don't have many scarves.

    The wiki on scarf joints has this to say:
  12. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just wanted to add to cuchu's list above, so that the current WR Dictionary (Collins Concise) is represented:
    ​Therefore either version for the cloth, only scarfs for the joint. Before reading this, I assumed scarves​ was the only option for the cloth.

  13. sophiaangel New Member

    English - American
    This is very interesting. I am writing a fashion article and just got confused what to write scarf or scarves.

    What I found is

    1) that Google marks "scarfs" as spelling mistake by denoting the red underline
    2) MS word gives no spelling error to scarves or scarfs
    3) Google auto suggestion give "scarves"
    4) search results in google for
    scarfs - 12,600,000
    scarves - 52,000,000

    So people are searching more with scarves and not scarfs
    5) dictionaries tell both are correct and "scarfs" is old english and "scarves" is new
    6) branded online shopping sites like,,,, they all use "scarves" but other important stores like, use "scarfs" and again use both "scarfs" and "scarves"
    7) google shows



    plural form of scarf1.

    and no result for "define:scarfs"

    So, what I feel that as long as I can convey the right meaning, this spelling difference does not matter too much.

    <Separate question moved
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2013

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