I have often noticed that Americans say "New Years" - and wondered why it was plural.

But just reading Obama's biography I've noticed for the first time it is spelled with an apostrophe.

School started two weeks before Inauguration Day, so after New Year's we flew back to Chicago...

In Britain we would just say "after New Year", or we might say "after New Year's Day". But I am puzzled as to how America got to "New Year's". It could mean a whole lot of things - "New Year's Eve", "New Year's Day", New Year's holiday" (which we would call "the New Year public/bank-holiday*"), "New Year's picnic" etc.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

*If New Year's Day falls at the weekend, the Monday following is a public holiday - (often still called a "bank holiday" in Britain).

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    Grammarly seems to have discussed the topic. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 9:43
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    I think it's short for "New Year's celebration" but that's just a guess. Maybe an American can explain it but I wouldn't put money on it. After all a lot of them think that there is something called a 'tooth comb' that you use to go through things in fine detail. Everyone else thinks it's a "fine-tooth comb" which makes perfect sense.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 10:58
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    Brits don't generally go for this particular possessive, but it's similar to the way we "apostrophise" Tesco's and Sainsbury's (which the companies themselves almost never do, and I'm not sure why the general public rarely do this with some other nationwide chains, such as Lidl, Aldi, Asda). Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 12:41
  • In the UK, I'd say 'after the New Year' is more idiomatic than the anarthrous version. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 15:00
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    @WS2: There's also Let's meet at John's (house, place), and I'll have a ploughman's (lunch). And (more popular in the US than the UK, I suspect) I'll have a Danish (pastry), which is essentially the same kind of non-explicitly stated noun [implied by a possessive form closely associated with that noun]. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


It appears to be an AmE usage and it may refer to either New Years’s Day or Eve, according to context.

New Year's (uncountable noun)

New Year's is another name for New Year's Day or , New Year's Eve. [US]

(Collins Dictionary)

but according to Grammarly.com:

“New Year’s” usually means “New Year’s Eve,” and people usually specify “New Year’s Day” when they’re talking about January 1.

while according to M-W

New year:

usually New Year's : New Year’s day

thesaurus.com about the usage of “New Year’s” points out that:

you should also use the ‘s even when New Year’s stands alone as long as you’re talking about the holiday. For example: “Let’s plan to get together for New Year’s.”

Here, the ‘s implies the eve or day. You should, however, probably get a bit more specific with your friends so they don’t show up on New Year’s Eve when you’re in your pajamas and were actually inviting them to brunch on New Year’s Day. Just saying.

  • But if it is a noun, which indeed it is - a proper noun like Easter or Christmas - then why would it require an apostrophe s? And I'm not clear about your reference "Oxford Languages". The Oxford English Dictionary records it as a noun, and makes no mention about any apostrophe - though since the OED is a dictionary of the full corpus of the English Language as spoken around the world - perhaps it should include it as an American curiosity. The most recent example the OED gives is 1999 J. M. Coetzee Disgrace i. 5 At New Year he gave her an enamelled bracelet.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 10:08
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    @WS2 ... In the OED see the separate entry "New Year's, n." This says "Chiefly North American" and claims it is shortened from "New Year's Day" with no mention of "Eve".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 13:12
  • @GEdgar Well spotted! One would have thought the OED would have cross-referenced the entries.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 15:37

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