I've heard certain titles pluralised in apparently odd ways, such as a Secretary General being Secretaries General when plural, rather than "Secretary Generals" as I'd have guessed, and I'm wondering if there's a rule on this. For example if you were addressing two female Presidents, would is be "Madames President" (multiple females who preside over something) or "Madame Presidents" (multiple Presidents who are female)?

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    The general question is general reference: just look up articles on 'plurals of compound nouns', eg at Wikipedia. The honorific is a different construction; Mesdames President has been used. May 28, 2014 at 19:37
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    The Secretary General is a type of Secretary. You pluralize the noun, not the adjective. Similar to Sergeant Major...this is a kind of Sergeant, not a type of Major, so would be pluralized as Sergeants Major. You wouldn't be confused about how to pluralize a 'blue car'.
    – Oldcat
    May 28, 2014 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


The general in attorney general, surgeon general, etc., is actually a postpositive adjective (i.e., an adjective that comes after the noun it modifies). The general, therefore, is the adjective general and has nothing to do with the military rank.

Edit: For the plural of Madam President, the plural would be Mesdames Presidents; one is an honorific, one is a title, and both would be pluralized.


Theodore has it right. You would pluralize Presidents, just as you would say Honorable Justices of the Court.

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    – Ted Broda
    May 28, 2014 at 19:54
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    – Brian K
    May 28, 2014 at 20:22

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