Calfs or Calves | What’s the Correct Plural Form?

The correct plural form of the noun “calf” is “calves.”

This is the case whether you’re using “calves” to refer to the offspring of a domestic cow or the muscles behind your lower legs.

Examples: Calves in a sentence
We move the herd of calves into the barn every night.

After a difficult exercise session, my calves were sore.

Today, I learned that baby whales and elephants are also called calves.

Is it calve or calf?

The correct singular noun is “calf, not “calve.”

“Calf” has various meanings. It can be used to refer to a young cow or to the offspring of other animals, such as elks, elephants, and whales. But it can also refer to the area behind the lower leg and the muscles in this region.

Examples: Calf in a sentence
The young calf followed the other cows everywhere.

We saw a sperm whale with her calf during our whale-watching trip.

I had to take a break from soccer after I tore a calf muscle.

My right calf is bigger than my left one.

Some dictionaries also define “calf” as both “an awkward, silly boy or young man” and “a piece of ice detached from a glacier,” but these uses are less common.

The word “calve” (no “s”) is a verb that can refer to a cow giving birth or to a piece of ice becoming detached from a glacier or iceberg.

Examples: Calve in a sentence
The cow is expected to calve at some point today.

We witnessed a large glacier calve while on our expedition.

Calves vs calfs

“Calves” is the plural form of “calf,” regardless of what animal you’re referring to.

Examples: Calfs vs calves
  • The little calfs were so cute!
  • The little calves were so cute!

Similarly, the correct plural form for the area and muscles behind both legs is “calves.”

Examples: Calfs vs calves
  • I need to strengthen my calfs because they’re so weak.
  • I need to strengthen my calves because they’re so weak.

Although this area comprises multiple muscles, “calf” refers to the muscle group behind one leg and “calves” to those behind both legs.

Additionally, “calf muscles” can refer to either one or both legs. “Calf muscle” and “calf muscles” are sometimes used interchangeably, even though they refer to a group of muscles.

The term “calves muscles” is never used.

Examples: How to use calf, calves, and calf muscle(s)
  • My right calves were sorer than the left ones.
  • After yoga, I noticed a pain in my left calf.
  • Her routine specifically targets the calves to build strength.
  • The therapist gave me exercises to strengthen the calf muscle(s) of my injured leg.
  • Regular jump-roping can lead to well-defined calf muscles.

Frequently asked questions about calfs or calves

What is the plural of calf?

The plural of “calf” is “calves.” It can be used to describe certain young animals (e.g., “elephant calves”) or the muscles behind the lower legs (e.g., “strong calves”). Calfs and calves are often confused, but calfs is never the correct plural form.

Is calfs correct?
No, using “calfs” is not correct. The correct plural form is “calves.” Some dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, list “calfs” as a variant spelling of “calves” when referring to the hides of young cows. But this is not commonly used.
Is it calve or calf?

When describing one singular offspring of an animal such as a cow, elephant, or whale, the correct term to use is “calf.” Similarly, when talking about the region behind your lower leg and the muscles that comprise it, the correct term is also “calf.” Calfs and calves are often confused, but the correct plural form for both calf and calve is calves.

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Gina Rancaño, BA

Gina holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, as well as a certificate in professional and public writing from Florida International University. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading.