11

I'm in a friendly argument with a supervisor about this one, and I'd like some data: Does one say "WiFis" when referring to multiple WiFi networks, or does one say "WiFi"?

I suppose alternately, one could just say "WiFi networks," but this is more concerned with descriptive usage than prescriptive usage.

  • I prefer the higher-brow sounding 'WisFi'. – Jeremy Mar 15 at 14:47
13

I've never heard that in English though it is used in other languages. It would seem very strange since there is no such thing as a WiFi, so why would there be many WiFis?

WiFi is not used as a countable noun in English, you don't say I have a WiFi or anything similar. You instead refer to WiFi networks and that is often abbreviated to WiFi. However, since it is a contraction of WiFi networks, it is not used in plural form. So, to refer to many of them you will pluralize networks and keep WiFi as it is.

My position is also supported by NGrams:

enter image description here

While there do seem to be some hits, a quick look at those that could theoretically refer to WiFi (the ones that were written after WiFi was invented) shows no cases where WiFis was used to refer to WiFi networks. The older ones seem to mostly be errors in transcribing wife's.

0

Strictly speaking, it should be "Wi-Fi":

"Wi-Fi is the name of a popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. A common misconception is that the term Wi-Fi is short for "wireless fidelity," however this is not the case. Wi-Fi is simply a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x."

Note that it's trademarked, so we should spell it that way when writing.

In speech, the "-" is silent.

4

Wi-Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance. They have a style guide for the use of their trademarks, though it doesn't answer this question.

However, normally with trademarks, the officially sanctioned usage is to employ them as adjectives. Bearing that in mind, you would have one Wi-Fi network, or multiple Wi-Fi networks. Certainly in any formal writing, you should stick with that.

Of course, informal usage is another story. However, Wi-Fis is not a term I've commonly encountered before, and I imagine the main reason would be that it's quite ambiguous. It could refer to multiple Wi-Fi access points, or multiple Wi-Fi networks, or multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices. It's better to spell out what you mean.

3

Here is a Google Books Ngram chart which shows objective data

enter image description here

It looks like wifis beats WiFi and Wi-Fi networks hands down, until you consult the results which are reported below the chart.

For wifis a quick scan showed that many of the instances referred to abbreviated organisations, WIFIS; or seem to be transcription errors of Japanese and Chinese texts.

WiFi networks on the other hand, all referred to the wireless connection genre. Note too when the plural term first appeared, around 1988.

  • Just out of curiosity, how is this objective data? – terdon Sep 30 '14 at 18:14
  • @terdon by comparing more than one term on the chart, AND giving the Google Books links for wifis and WiFi networks separately. Taken collectively the data supported the latter term. In the link you'll also see I added the term wi-fis, which turned up zero results. – Mari-Lou A Oct 1 '14 at 4:16
8

The accepted answer, asserting that WiFi is not a noun, is incorrect. WiFi is clearly a noun. It is probably used mostly as an uncountable noun. We are unlikely to say "I have two WiFis," just as we wouldn't say "I have two furnitures."

However, as choster's answer suggests, some may be using it as a countable noun. A google search for the exact phrase "there are two wifis available" yields one result with a snippet from a tripadvisor review saying

there are two wifis available, pick the right one -depending on where you are and you can surf no probs unlike some of the reviewers who experienced trouble.

It's probably good style, for formal writing, to avoid this, but the question asks "do people pluralize 'WiFi' with an 's'"; the answer is apparently "yes." If the question were "should people..." then the answer might be "no."

  • You're quite right, I should have clarified (and have now done so) that it is not a countable noun. Nevertheless, I don't see how a random quote from one person on the internet constitutes evidence of use by native speakers. Especially given the clear problems in the quote. – terdon Sep 30 '14 at 18:15
  • I usually circumvent the problem of saying "two wifis" (which feels unnatural to me) by using "two wireless networks". – painfulenglish Oct 1 '14 at 8:12
  • @terdon The user profile attached to the comment I quoted leaves me with the distinct impression that the author is indeed English. Also, given the prevalence of "emails" as the plural of "email" (when I would never, ever say "mails" as the plural of uncountable "mail"), leads me to be entirely unsurprised that a native English speaker would speak of "wifis." – phoog Feb 17 '15 at 8:10
11

Do people do it? Certainly; even within StackExchange you can find examples like restricted WiFis or high-bandwidth WiFis. The Wi-Fi Alliance doesn't seem to provide any guidelines on the matter.

But that said,

  • A search on COCA turns up 1001 results for Wi-Fi, 78 for WiFi, 4 for Wi-Fi's and 1 for WiFi's— all marking a genitive rather than a plural— and 0 for Wi-Fis or WiFis.

  • A search on GloWbE turns up 7 results for WiFis, all but one found in comments posted to blogs.

  • A search on the BNC turns up zero results for any permutation.

The issue is not a question of pluralization, but that in English, Wi-Fi or WiFi is not in widespread use as a synonym for a WiFi network. This is certainly the case among writers and most technology professionals, who understand Wi-Fi as the marketing name of a particular technology protocol. Wi-Fis would be ambiguous, as it could refer not only to networks or SSIDs but, for example, to access points, or to multiple versions of the protocol.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.