Roofs is generally used, but is rooves archaic or just wrong?

  • Am only 63 but rooves was the plural of roof just like sheep is the plural of sheep etc. Am not finding the new language of the younger generation true. Where are the teachers of spelling and grammar? – user38080 Feb 22 '13 at 10:57
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    Dr. Johnson's dictionary of 1755 has "In the plural Sidney has rooves : now obſolete", and roofs has been predominant since. If you're claiming to be over 260 years old, I think you'll find that the teachers in your day were more likely to teach to local preferences rather than anything more widely agreed as the single correct spelling; they may have been teaching roofs as close as the next parish. – Jon Hanna Feb 22 '13 at 11:22
  • Rooves is how I would spell it, and I'm only 32. I'm glad to learn that my way is still in the OED. I think most people where I come from (Lancashire, England) would at least pronounce it rooves, and while Lancashire remains in England its English should be correct. – Ricky Clarkson Jun 8 '13 at 15:18
  • Apparently both roofs and rooves are still in use, therefore both are correct even if one form is used more than another. However, it also appears that rooves falls into the same category as warsh ("wash"). If you say it, be prepared to be corrected or considered to be uneducated or at least provincial. I think I'll go with roofs. – user1626231 Jul 9 '13 at 11:26
  • Um, no. Rooves is an accepted spelling, but warsh is not: it is mere eye-dialect. – tchrist Jul 9 '13 at 17:17

Rooves is not wrong per se, but extremely uncommon nowadays. Here are the stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus:

           COCA      BNC
roofs      2307      653
rooves        1        5

The Corpus of Historical American English has 6 cites for rooves, one from 1890, two from 1930, two from 1950, and one from 1980.

Merriam-Webster doesn't even mention rooves at all. The Collins English Dictionary mentions the pronunciation /ruːvz/, but not the spelling rooves. Finally, Wiktionary has these usage notes:

The plural rooves is uncommon and is usually considered incorrect.

So if you want to be on the safe side, I would recommend going with roofs, especially if your audience is American.

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    Of course roofs could also be a verb form in those corpora. I think. Tom and Joe can roof a house in one day. But Tom roofs a house by himself in three days. – GEdgar Nov 20 '12 at 18:00
  • I must confess that I’d always thought it really was rooves, if a bit old-fashioned like striven or trodden. Some folks find my roof, rooves, roofed, roofer already exotic, since I have the PUT vowel there. OED gives citations for the 1300s and 1400s, plus these from the 20th century: §1903 Dialect Notes II. 352 ― Roof, n. pl. rooves. Common plural in Mass. §1938 C. Himes Black on Black (1973) 165 ― W’en de panic cum an’ de Lawd tek yo’ food an’ yo’ clothes an’ de rooves off’n yo’ haids, den laff. – tchrist Nov 20 '12 at 23:01
  • As a 60-year-old I am entering the fray to say that at the age of 7 I was taught that both spellings were acceptable. Name of teacher and school supplied if anyone is interested. – user39424 Mar 13 '13 at 8:50
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    I would be interested to see if there is a difference here between accepted spelling and accepted pronunciation. While the spelling is clearly roofs, as outlined below, those who pronounce roof with the -oo- vowel seem to often pronounce the plural as rooves. Those who use the PUT vowel in my experience use a pronunciation closer to roofs with that same vowel. – Ellie Jul 9 '13 at 14:51
  • What about British English dictionaries? Can you add them to the answer? I'd imagine there'd be more of a pull towards rooves, not in the past few decades though. I still use rooves even if it gets a red squiggly underline. – Matt Fletcher Sep 25 '14 at 13:18

Rooves as a plural for of roof is dated, but not incorrect. The Oxford English Dictionary lists “rooves” as an alternate to roofs, one of several outdated spellings used in the UK, and in New England as late as the 19th century.

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    Um, as late as the 20th century, by my reading. – tchrist Nov 20 '12 at 22:58

It's not stated which source Google Dictionary used but they list both roofs and rooves as correct.


My Concise Oxford Dictionary (1991) shows rooves as a disputed spelling

  • I would have thought it better classified as a disputed pronunciation. – Peter Shor Feb 22 '13 at 12:30

Johnson's dictionary notes:

In the plural Sidney has rooves : now obſolete.

So it's been considered beyond archaic, at least by some, since the mid 18th century.


The Dictionary of my Mac (which looks for words in the New Oxford American Dictionary because I set American English as default language), when I search for rooves it redirects me to the page explaining the meaning of roof, where the only reported plural word is roofs.

protected by Community Jul 24 '13 at 10:45

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