I've looked this up online, but I can't find any explanations from reasonably credible sources, so I'm posting my question here! (Was that a comma splice?)

Should I refer to the appointment that I made with my doctor as a "doctor's appointment" or "doctors appointment"? What if I'm referring to more than one appointment with two different doctors?

  • Personally, I say "doctor appointment," as I plan to visit only one doctor. Better yet, "I have an appointment with my doctor." – Mike Christian May 6 '11 at 19:07
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    HaL is correct... and the more-than-one-appointment-more-than-one-doctor would be doctors' appointments. – Ben Voigt May 7 '11 at 3:29

As the doctor also has an appointment with you, doctor's appointment is appropriate in its own right. It is also by far the most common as a set phrase:


Any other plural usage would be entirely subjective.

Graph source: Google Books Ngram

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    Totally agreed. It's a short transformation from appointment with a doctor to appointment of a doctor (which is the format used in French though rarely in English), which is the same as doctor's appointment. – Matthew Read May 6 '11 at 20:59
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    +1. Where did that graph come from? – Nate Nov 4 '14 at 19:20
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    @Nate, the graph looks like a Google NGram graph to me. – chwarr Dec 17 '14 at 20:38
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    Why don't we ever say "dentist's appointment" or "mechanic's appointment"? – GregNash May 17 '19 at 13:23
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    @GregNash Good question. English can be weird, though sometimes it can be understood through tough thorough thought. – HaL Jan 16 '20 at 13:22

You can use either doctor appointment or doctor's appointment. Merriam-Webster indirectly supports the latter with its second example under its listing for appointment.

I agree with tchrist that the word doctor in doctor appointment is a noun (attributive noun I believe), although the definition of an attributive noun is a noun used as an adjective, so maybe it's just semantics at some point.

To the point above about the appointment being reciprocal, I can sort of get on board with that. I suppose the doctor does have an appointment with the patient as well, but I think the emphasis is a bit off in that perspective because I think the ownership pertains more directly to the patient (just my take).

In any case, you should be okay with either usage above.

  • Why don't we ever say "dentist's appointment" or "mechanic's appointment"? – GregNash May 17 '19 at 13:22

In the phrase "doctor appointment" or "doctors appointment" the word doctor serves as a descriptive adjective that describes what kind of an appointment it is. In such a phrase the emphasis is on the word appointment. In the phrase "doctor's appointment" or "doctors' appointment" the possessive form of doctor shifts the emphasis away from appointment. Both ways are correct. It just depends on how you want your sentence to read. My preference is to use the possessive apostrophe only when it is important to express ownership.

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    No, this is incorrect: this is not an adjective, but a noun. Doctor is the first of two nouns in a noun–noun compound. You can tell this because you cannot say “a very doctor appointment” or “a doctorer/more doctor appointment”, which makes it clear that doctor is not used as an adjective here. Just because a noun happens to modify another noun does not it an adjective make. – tchrist Feb 27 '13 at 15:53

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