Plural & Possessives for Proper Nouns Ending in Sibilants

Let’s tackle plurals and possessives for proper nouns ending in sibilants! Gulp! Recently, someone asked me, “Which is correct for the plural of my last name - Strauss’s or Strausses or Strauss’???? And what about possessives?”

First, let’s discuss sibilants. Merriam-Webster’s defines a sibilant as having, containing, or producing the sound of or a sound resembling that of the s or the sh in sash. It says sibilant is a present participle of sibilare, which is to “hiss, whistle, of imitative origin.”

Chicago Manual of Style says (6.7) The PLURALS of most nouns are formed by the addition of “s” or “es.” When the noun ends in soft “ch” or in “s, sh, j,x, or z,” the plural inflection is “es.” So it appears the plural of your name is “Strausses.” The Strausses live there. The Strusses are going to Rome. The Strausses have guests.


You’d only use an apostrophe if it were used in a possessive manner: The Strauss’s landscaping…The Strauss’s dog. Chicago Manual of Style says (6.24)The general rule for the POSSESSIVE of nouns covers most proper nouns, including most names ending in sibilants…

Examples: Kansas’s, Burn’s, Ross’s.

Rice University Style Guide says: Form the possessive of singular nouns, including proper nouns and words ending in sibilants, with ’s (but heed exceptions noted in Chicago).

* Mrs. Davis’s house
* The boss’s office
* Octavio Paz’s work

Here’s another excellent explanation: Making Words Possessive When They End in Sibilants

And here’s more:

Strunk and White says the following:
http://bartleby.com/141/strunk.html

Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles’s friend
Burns’s poems
the witch’s malice

This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus’, and such forms as for conscience’ sake, for righteousness’ sake. But such forms as Achilles’ heel, Moses’ laws, Isis’ temple are commonly replaced by

the heel of Achilles
the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis

5 Responses to “Plural & Possessives for Proper Nouns Ending in Sibilants”

  1. jane topley Says:

    How are the possesives pronounced - as in Mrs. davis’s house- davis or daveses.?
    When I was in elementaryschool in the late 30s and early 40s I thought we were taught that the plural and posessive was Davis’ and pronounced Davis

  2. Administrator Says:

    These days most people will pronounce it “Davises.”

  3. Craig Luedeman Says:

    When reading from the Bible, I can’t bring myself to say Jesuses birth, etc. I always say Jesus’. Other web sites I’ve seen say Jesus’, not Jesuses, but you seem to be saying the opposite? What am I missing here?

  4. Administrator Says:

    Strunk and White says the following:
    http://bartleby.com/141/strunk.html

    Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s.

    Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

    Charles’s friend
    Burns’s poems
    the witch’s malice

    This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

    Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus’, and such forms as for conscience’ sake, for righteousness’ sake. But such forms as Achilles’ heel, Moses’ laws, Isis’ temple are commonly replaced by

    the heel of Achilles
    the laws of Moses
    the temple of Isis

  5. Kim Says:

    My two Auntie Diane’s.

    Is this correct?


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