Apostrophe in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Place an apostrophe before s in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Example
  • Correct: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
    Incorrect: Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day
    Incorrect: Mothers Day, Fathers Day

Why the apostrophe?

In Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the nouns mother and father are possessive, indicated by an apostrophe and s. Think of it as the day of the mother or of the father.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Mom’s gift arrived just in time for Mothers Day.
    Correct: Mom’s gift arrived just in time for Mother’s Day.
  • Incorrect: Do you visit your dad’s place on Fathers Day?
    Correct: Do you visit your dad’s place on Father’s Day?

The general rule is to use an apostrophe in the name of a holiday that contains a possessive noun (e.g., New Year’s Day) but to omit the apostrophe if the name is a descriptive term (e.g., Independence Day). “Mothers Day” and “Fathers Day” (without the apostrophe) would work grammatically, with the nouns used attributively (like in Veterans Day). That the nouns take the possessive case and require an apostrophe before s is therefore a matter of tradition and accepted style rather than grammar.

Apostrophe before or after S?

Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day contain a singular rather than a plural noun, and the apostrophe appears before instead of after the s that forms the possessive.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Mothers’ Day
    Correct: Mother’s Day
  • Incorrect: Fathers’ Day
    Correct: Father’s Day

This guidance is based on accepted style. Plural possessives (Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day) would not be grammatically wrong. However, the idea presumably is to celebrate each mother and father individually rather than mothers and fathers as a group—thus, it’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (unlike, say, Patriots’ Day, Martyrs’ Day, or Teachers’ Day).

Dictionaries like Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and Cambridge all agree on placing the apostrophe before s in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as do style manuals like the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook. Here are some examples from published content:

Examples
  • Women’s Day, an originally socialist holiday that took hold in Soviet times, has faded, while the American-made Mother’s Day is in vogue.
    — “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church may change the date of its Christmas,” Economist (January 13, 2022)
  • She created Mother’s Day out of love for her own mother but was shocked by how it became commercialized.
    — “Anna Jarvis: The woman who regretted creating Mother’s Day,” BBC News (May 10, 2020)
  • In 1972, Father’s Day was made official, signed into law by Richard Nixon.
    — “What are Father’s Day ads selling?” New Yorker (June 11, 2014)
Note

Whether and where to use an apostrophe in the name of a holiday can be confusing, since this decision is often based on style rather than grammar. For a list of holidays written with and without the apostrophe, see Apostrophes in Names of Holidays.

Use of capital letters

Capitalize the two words in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Names of holidays, festivals, and other specially designated days are proper nouns and therefore capitalized.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Did you call Mom on mother’s day?
    Incorrect: Did you call Mom on Mother’s day?
    Correct: Did you call Mom on Mother’s Day?
  • Incorrect: I usually bake cookies for my dad on father’s day.
    Incorrect: I usually bake cookies for my dad on Father’s day.
    Correct: I usually bake cookies for my dad on Father’s Day.

Quick Quiz

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