How to spell the plural of monkey — monkeys or monkies?

Words that end in y tend to be difficult to classify: the rules differ depending on the letters that surround them; and sometimes an s is merely tacked onto the end of the word, whereas in other cases the entire ending is transformed, most often to -ies.

Cecilia Gigliotti
Cecilia Gigliotti

Pluralization can be one of the most irregular and therefore frustrating aspects of English for native and non-native speakers alike. Words that end in y tend to be difficult to classify: the rules differ depending on the letters that surround them; and sometimes an s is merely tacked onto the end of the word, whereas in other cases the entire ending is transformed, most often to -ies.

In the case of the word monkey, the first of the above two scenarios is true. Learners of English might have cause to believe that the ending of the word is transformed into monkies, based on any prior rules of pluralization to which they may have been exposed.

But most words ending in -ey simply add an s to become plural.

For example:

Key becomes keys
Trolley becomes trolleys
Journey becomes journeys

Ergo in a question of “monkies or monkeys,” we can apply the above rules and say:

Monkey becomes monkeys.

But how do we know this?

The “y” debate

The most confusing aspect of pluralizing words that end in ey is that the very last letter is still y. This invites a lack of clarity as to the appropriate placement of -ies, hence the “monkies vs. monkeys” disagreement.

The solution is largely one of aesthetics. A word ending in a lone y, like community or even something as simple as fly, would look strange with a lone s tacked on to the end: it is more visually appealing to fashion a new ending to accommodate the plurality. Communities and flies look better than communitys and flys.

Words ending in -ey have more substance to begin with, so an added s won’t look so odd. Think of chimneys, for example. So “monkeys” doesn’t need anything extra done to it.

Examples of using “monkey” and “monkeys”:

Open Range (2003)
The Avengers (2012)
Concussion (2015)
Clerks II (2006)
EnglishWhich is correct

Cecilia Gigliotti

I have extensive experience writing in a variety of genres, from literary novels to music reviews to academic articles. I appreciate the power of words.


Cecilia Gigliotti

I have extensive experience writing in a variety of genres, from literary novels to music reviews to academic articles. I appreciate the power of words.

Geoffrey Mutie

My name is Geoffrey! I am constantly looking for new ways to improve my writing skills and my interpersonal skills, which in my opinion help a person be professional.

Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.