I tried looking on Google, but there are some fairly contradictory results.

I thought I'd ask you guys so we could get an authoritative answer on the subject!

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    You wouldn't say five zero when referring to "00000". Your example is of the plural form of comment. – Doctor Jones Oct 26 '12 at 8:20
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    If I Google "zeroes", I get the definition for the verb "zero", for which it claims "zeroes" is the third person present tense. If I were writing something using both words, I think I personally would use "zeros" for the plural and "zeroes" for the verb - e.g. "when he zeroes the counter, the digits all change to zeros". – mwfearnley Oct 20 '14 at 4:21
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    You won't say twos comments either for two comments. Plurality added to the subject – sohaiby Aug 26 '15 at 9:33
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    I'd say nohat's example should be one zero, zero zeroes. You can then clearly see that zero is not already plural. – Doctor Jones Aug 26 '15 at 11:57
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    I guess we're mixing up two things: the plural form of the word "zero" itself, and the value of the cardinal number '0', that is, whether the succeeding word is singular or plural. Indeed, 1 car, 2 cars, but also 0 cars. – MC Emperor Jun 9 '16 at 7:12

Both zeros and zeroes are acceptable, see e.g. Merriam-Webster, Wiktionary or TheFreeDictionary.

The usage stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the British National Corpus (BNC) look as follows:

              COCA   BNC

zeros          312   132    
zeroes.[n]     106     5    

So in practice zeros is preferred in the US and even more so in the UK, though citations for zeroes include such prominent examples as Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. (Mr Hawking is British, but the book was first published by an American publishing house.) The oldest citation for zeroes in the BNC is from 1978. The Corpus of Historical American English has six citations that are even older, the oldest one being from 1914.

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    Why zeroes.[n] but zeros without the .[n]? – Mathieu K. Mar 25 '17 at 15:02
  • @MathieuK. Good question. I wish I remembered. Not that it would make a difference, though. The current numbers from COCA are 350 for zeros.[n] and 126 for zeroes.[n]. – RegDwigнt Mar 30 '17 at 9:52
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    @MathieuK.: Presumably because "zeroes" with an "e" is mostly used in the verb form ("He zeroes in on something"), whereas "zeros" is pretty much only used as a plural noun, so disambiguation wasn't required. – Nick Matteo Apr 3 '17 at 15:16

Note that dictionaries document the (current, at the time of going to press) usage of language, they aren't authoritative. 'Correct' is what is in common usage and largely understood to be correct, even if that contradicts a dictionary (in which case the dictionary is probably out-of-date).

So, as RegDwight has already answered, either zeros or zeroes is 'correct', but....

It's interesting to note that the Oxford English Dictionary's Oxford Dictionaries site's sole definition of zeroes is related to zero as a verb, e.g. "watch as he zeroes his sights on the target"; not as the plural of zero. It states that the plural of zero is zeros. This doesn't mean that using zeroes as a plural is wrong, as I've already said, it just shows that such usage is probably a more recent occurrence, gaining acceptance as the use of zero as a verb falls into decline.

See http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/zero

As Barrie England helpfully points out in a comment (thanks Barrie!), the link above isn't to the OED, as I'd initially specified, and the OED quotes zeroes as the only plural of zero. Both sites are run by Oxford Press, the former providing data from a collection of Oxford Press dictionaries. I think the difference between the two emphasizes my point that there is no 'correct', and that dictionaries merely document popular usage. I imagine there are more resources dedicated to the OED and that this is more likely to be up-to-date, but really that's just speculation.

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    That's not the Oxford English Dictionary. This is: oed.com/view/Entry/232803?result=1&rskey=wtemIf&. It gives 'zeroes' as the only plural, although some of the citations have 'zeros'. – Barrie England Jul 26 '12 at 11:24
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    Speaking of Oxford . . . I had to read, misread, and reread your mysterious use of emphasises above about seventeen times trying to figure out why in the world you somehow thought the plural of emphasis was ∗emphasises instead of the correct emphases before I finally after far too long a time figured out that you had actually meant the verb emphasizes. You might well consider adopting the Oxford spelling of that word to avoid garden-pathing to a fatal misreading. Honestly! – tchrist Jul 26 '12 at 13:06
  • @tchrist Seventeen attempts to parse that sentence before you spotted the spelling error? Honestly? I'm terribly sorry to have caused you such confusion; I've corrected the mistake. – Richard Turner Jul 27 '12 at 13:09
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    @tchrist emphasise (and hence emphasises) are perfectly acceptable spellings in British English (Chambers & ODO) give both spellings. – TrevorD May 23 '13 at 16:21

I prefer "zeroes" because "zeros" resembles the Greek singular and seems to invoke the pronunciation ZEH-ross, and I'm not the only one. Oxford explains their pluralization rules including an appearance of zeros, here: Oxford Dictionaries: Plurals of Nouns.

In sum:

  1. Usually add -s (solos, zeros).
  2. If vowel+o, add -s (studios, zoos).
  3. Some words take -oes (buffaloes, dominoes).
  4. Other words can take -os or -oes (banjos/banjoes, cargos/cargoes).

At this point I am beginning to sympathize with Dan Quayle and his potatoe incident!


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