Today is the World Oceans Day. Why is ‘World Ocean’ in it plural? There is only one World Ocean. Or did they just omit the apostrophe before the -s?

  • 3
    Thursday June 3rd was apparently World Bicycle Day. Since there exist more than 1 bicycle, one might expect a plural-form attributive noun, but the usual singular-form attributive works fine and sounds less comical. But note that the composition is World [Bicycle Day], when the world (standing for all its inhabitants) is invited to celebrate the venerable bike. There's not a World Bicycle. Likewise, World [Oceans Day]. 'Ocean' would certainly have worked, but it's good to think of the contiguous supersea as being made up of 4 or 5 'separate' oceans (or if you write shanties, 7 seas). Jun 8 at 11:28
  • 1
    Because most people don't distinguish between the global ocean and the various ocean basins. If you ask people how many oceans there are, very few will say just one. Jun 8 at 11:29
  • 1
    No, there are four oceans (I haven't heard of the Southern Ocean) and the World Ocean which is made up by them. Jun 8 at 11:59
  • 1
    It is not obvious what research the OP is supposed to have done before asking the question. The question concerns a syntactical ambiguity, not something that can be resolved by consulting a dictionary.
    – jsw29
    Jun 8 at 16:44
  • 1
    I'm guessing they want to emphasise the fact that they're concerned with all the oceans in the world, rather than just being concerned with some small part of the sea or a particular aspect of oceanography. But if you want to know for sure you'll have to ask them - this isn't really a question of English usage but of the particular name of an organisation where there are several grammatical options.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 8 at 19:49

There are five oceans:

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Indian Ocean
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Southern (Antarctic) Ocean

and they are all considered on World Oceans Day.

This isn't the same construct as "World Bicycle Day" because that doesn't consider all the separate bicycles in the world, but rather the concept of cycling.


It would be "Всемирный день океанов" in Russian - we use the attributive in place of the genitive in English. The difference between the singular and plural comes across in Russian too - "Всемирный день океана" would have the same connotations as "World Ocean Day". That is to say ocean as a concept rather than all the oceans. Hope that helps.

  • There is no genitive in this English name. I figured it out yesterday (all you said), but thank you anyway. Jun 9 at 10:45
  • 1
    Precisely my point. The genitive "океанов" in the Russian is an attributive in English.
    – KevRusTran
    Jun 9 at 11:57
  • 1
    Excuse my butting in, but this Stack is for English. There is a Russian Language site.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 9 at 12:21

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.