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When I typed the search into Google most of the responses were websites selling clothing and the ratio of womens versus women's was about 1:1. Searching for mens versus men's and the version with apostrophes appears almost 90% of the time. For boys versus boy's or girls versus girl's it is a 3:2 ratio in favor of no apostrophes.

So there's a general trend for leaving the apostrophe out. But "womens" looks wrong.

I suppose the same question applies to public bathrooms as well. Is the women's room or the womens room?

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  • The "Is mens a valid word?" question has an interesting twist I had not considered: menswear. No apostrophe there either. I agree it should be closed as a duplicate of that question. I can't mark either answer below as fully correct. Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 5:00
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

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Women's room is "correct" as it follows the typical orthography rules. There is the possessive 's after the word "women." Women's room is correct because you want to use the possessive (men's, women's).

"Womens" is "incorrect" by any standard. It should never appear.

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  • Because women is already plural, so the only reason to add an s is to create a possessive, which requires an apostrophe.
    – bib
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 22:13
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    ' "Womens" is "incorrect" by any standard. It should never appear.' _ This is just not true - see the references at the previous (linked) thread. Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 23:10
  • @EdwinAshworth Isn't part of the role of grammarians and gurus to guide others in effectiveness and clarity of language? The acceptance of "womens" abandons the meanings of plurality and possession. Both the s and the apostrophe are not just sclerotic attachments to a technicality, but communication of meaningful information.
    – bib
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 0:36
  • @bib I think that having the choice of apostrophe or not actually adds effectiveness and clarity. They live five minutes from the dogs home vs They live five minutes from the dogs' home. And how is Woodhouses Working Mens Club lacking in clarity? The acceptance of womens conforms to shifts in usage of attributive nouns. Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 23:40
  • How about menswear and womenswear? Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 22:39
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Singlular

  • man
  • woman
  • boy
  • girl

Plural

  • men
  • women
  • boys
  • girls

Names of clothing departments/restrooms (plural, non-possessive)

  • Men
  • Women
  • Boys
  • Girls

Names of clothing departments/restrooms (plural, possessive)

  • Men's
  • Women's
  • Boys'
  • Girls'

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