Prompted by recent remembrance day celebrations, it seems to me that the term PoWs is inconsistent with pluralization conventions.

Runs Batted In --> RBI

Prisoners of War--> PoW (shouldn't this be the plural?)

I read that laser appears to have become a noun unto itself and is thus pluralized as lasers.

Is PoWs an accepted noun or is it an oddly pluralized acronym?

Other acronym pluralization questions that don't address PoW(s) directly:

What is the correct way to define an acronym when its first appearance is plural?

Should acronyms that are actually hidden plurals be treated as plural?

  • "Laser appears to have become a noun ..."? It's been a noun for a very long time, and I can think of no good reason for not saying "lasers". Nov 13, 2015 at 14:34
  • I think you may have misrepresented RBI. It's singular and short for Run Batted In. It would be odd to hear Scott Van Pelt say "he was the league leader with 113 RBI". In speech usage it's always "RBIs". Similarly POW refers to a single Prisoner Of War, and POWs is the natural plural.
    – Misneac
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:37
  • In the US it's "POW", not "PoW". And "POWs" is typically used for the plural.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:41
  • @DavidGarner The term "laser" originated as an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation".
    – Minnow
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:46
  • Laser is a weird one anyway, in that while it derives from an acronym, it isn't one. You can't generally replace "laser"with the phrase "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". And good luck with trying to pluralise that phrase. "LASER" (the acronym) is the process by which "lasers" operate.
    – Rupe
    Nov 13, 2015 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


No, the way it works for POW is typical. One pluralises the initialism rather than forming a new (but the same) initialism out of the plural.

A person might have studied for multiple MAs, a conference might be attended by many CEOs and MDs, and so on.

EDIT: originally I said (based on what's in the OP) that RBI is the one that's less usual in that it is an initialism formed from a plural, and hence one does not pluralise the initialism. Apparently that's incorrect, RBI stands for 'Run Batted In' and RBIs is the normal plural form.

  • While I don't dispute how to say CEOs or MDs, if one expands them they are naturally plural: Chief Operating Officers, Medical Doctors. That seems different than Prisoners of War, where the plural is before the last letter of the acronym.
    – Minnow
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:44
  • 1
    I'm 99.44% certain that RBI is singular. It's pretty common to say something like "he got an important RBI in the top of the 6th" or "He got 2 RBIs in the 7th". I think the main reason they leave the "s" off the stat sheets and back of baseball cards is because it would be nearly illegible to have an even smaller font than what's already there.
    – Misneac
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:47
  • @Minnow Fair point, MA was certainly a better example.
    – Rupe
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:47
  • @Misneac I do like your two decimal place certainty, but some baseball commentators do use RBI in the plural en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_batted_in.
    – Minnow
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    Here's an oddity: in the British media, 'WAGs' is used for 'Wives And Girlfriends', as in "WAGs will not be permitted to accompany the team on the next tour". Since [apart from any two-timing that's going on] any individual from the WAGs is either a wife OR a girlfriend, logically the singular of WAGs should be WOG. For several reasons, it won't catch on. Nov 13, 2015 at 16:20

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