What’s the Plural of Wharf: Understanding English Nouns

  • Both “wharves” and “wharfs” are correct plural forms of “wharf”.
  • The general rule for ‘f’ to ‘ves’ in plural nouns has exceptions, as seen with “wharf”.
  • Contextual use of “wharf” in maritime scenarios is crucial for proper application.

The word “wharf” is one such noun that poses a question about its plural form. It is a common term used in maritime contexts referring to a structure where ships are docked to load and unload cargo or passengers. The plural form of “wharf” can be either “wharves” or “wharfs”. Both are accepted, but “wharves” is more commonly used.

What’s the Plural of Wharf?

“Wharf” can be pluralized in two ways: “wharfs” or “wharves.” Both forms are correct, but “wharves” is traditionally preferred in many contexts. “Wharf” falls under the category of nouns ending in “f” or “fe” which can form their plural by changing the “f” or “fe” to “ves.”

Singular and Plural Forms


Usage in Sentences

  • When referring to more than one structure along navigable waters, one might say, “The bustling wharves were filled with merchants unloading their goods.”
  • In another instance, illustrating simple enumeration: “Two new wharfs were constructed to accommodate the increased maritime traffic.”

Here are a few example contexts:

  • Historical texts tend to use “wharves.”
  • Nautical terminology often prefers “wharves.”
  • Everyday conversation and less formal writing might employ “wharfs.”

Singular Form of Wharf

The singular noun “wharf” embodies a single instance of such a structure, highlighting its role in maritime activities. With its singular form being straightforward, it does not deviate from its root word. The singular “wharf” is universally used to denote a singular man-made landing place without variation.

Characteristics of a Wharf (Singular)

ConstructionBuilt on the shore or bank of navigable waters.
UtilitiesEnables ships to dock alongside for transactions.
CompositionOften constructed from wood, metal, or concrete.
FunctionalityAccommodates a single ship or vessel at a time.

Usage in Context

  • A cargo ship approached the wharf to unload its freight.
  • Fishermen were seen mending their nets on the wharf.
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What’s a Wharf/Wharfs?

A wharf refers to a structure that allows ships to dock, typically built on the shore or projecting into a body of water to facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo and passengers. This term is very specific and denotes a particular kind of marine structure, distinguishing it from more general terms such as docks or piers.

Some nouns have different ways to express their plural form. The word “wharf” follows this pattern, having two acceptable plural forms. These forms are:

  • Wharfs
  • Wharves

Here’s how these plurals compare:


Examples in Sentences:

  • The fishing boats returned to the wharfs at sunset.
  • The old city’s docks include a series of sprawling wharves.

Other Irregular Plural Nouns (f-/-fe Suffixes)

Common Patterns:


Exceptions to Note:

Some words ending in -f or -fe may not follow the usual pattern of changing to -ves in the plural form. Instead, they take on a simple -s.


In certain cases, either forms are accepted.


  • The singular calf can have two plural forms: calves and calffs.
  • The plural of hoof can be written as hooves or hoofs, though the former is more common in modern usage.

To apply these patterns, it’s important to be aware of the general rule as well as its exceptions. Here’s a look at further irregular plurals formed from words ending in -f or -fe:

  • Dwarf: dwarves (also dwarfs)
  • Half: halves
  • Loaf: loaves
  • Wolf: wolves
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Examples of Wharf Used in Context

Here are two tables showcasing examples of “wharf” and its plural forms used in sentences:

Singular Usage of Wharf

Sentence ExampleExplanation
The ship docked at the wharf for the night.Utilizes “wharf” to denote a single structure for docking.
He walked along the wharf admiring the boats.Indicates one area where boats are moored.

Plural Usage of Wharf

Sentence ExampleExplanation
The bustling wharves were alive with fishermen.Showcases “wharves” to describe multiple docking structures.
Goods were transported to the various wharfs.Discusses different locations known for loading and unloading goods.

In addition to the above sentences, “wharf” can be contextualized as follows:

  • A single wharf typically has many features such as cranes, warehouses, and offices for the processing of goods and customs.
  • Coastal cities often have redeveloped wharves converting them into vibrant areas with shops and restaurants.

Examples of Wharves/Wharfs Used in Application:

Common Usage in Sentences:

  • The bustling harbor was lined with several wharves, each teeming with cargo and fishermen.
  • During their walk, they admired the historic wharfs along the river, each telling a story of the city’s maritime past.
  • The coastal town’s economy relied heavily on its wharves, where local products were exported to international markets.

In Literature and Media:

  • Literary works set in port towns often describe the protagonist’s adventures around the busy wharves.
  • Films depicting naval warfare or trade frequently feature extended scenes on the great wharfs where ships load and unload.

Occupations Related to Wharves/Wharfs:

DockworkerAn individual who loads and unloads cargo at the wharves.
HarbormasterA person responsible for overseeing the operations of the wharfs.

Importance in Commerce:

  • The development of a nation’s wharves reflects its commitment to fostering international trade.
  • Modern wharves are equipped with high-tech machinery to handle massive quantities of goods efficiently.
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By examining how ‘wharves’ and ‘wharfs’ are used in various contexts, one gains a better understanding of their importance in commerce, literature, and daily communication.

Synonyms for Wharf

Below, two tables list some common synonyms used interchangeably with ‘wharf.’

Table 1: Common Synonyms for Wharf

SynonymUsage Context
DockGeneral term for a water-level platform for loading.
PierOften used for recreational purposes as well as docking.
JettyRefers to a structure that extends into the water to influence currents or protect harbours.
QuayPrimarily used in British English and similar to ‘dock’.

Table 2: Additional Synonyms for Wharf

SynonymUsage Context
MarinaSpecific to leisure boats, offering moorage and supplies.
LeveeEmphasizes the embankment aspect, related to riverbanks.
FloatRefers to a floating structure attached to the shore.

Synonyms can also indicate subtle differences pertaining to purpose, location, or structure. Here are a few in list form:

  • Berth: Specific location where a vessel lies moored, typically within a dock or marina.
  • Slip: A narrow space between piers where a ship can be securely moored.
  • Landing: Can refer to an area for embarking or disembarking, but not necessarily with the cargo facilities of a wharf.

Origin of the Word Wharf

The term “wharf” has a rich lineage, tracing back to Old English. Its etymology is as fascinating as the structures it describes.

Old English Roots
The word “wharf” originates from the Old English word hwearf, which translates to “bank” or “shore” and also connects to the act of turning or changing direction—hinting at the structure’s location and perhaps its role in redirecting goods. This connection is further seen in the Old High German word hwerban, and the Greek karpos meaning wrist, highlighting the turning or pivoting action implied.

Development Over Time
Over the centuries, “wharf” evolved in Middle English to represent the solid constructions extending from shores to facilitate the loading and unloading of ships’ cargo. As maritime commerce flourished, the word became synonymous with the busy hubs of trading activity.

The use of “wharf” was first recorded before the 12th century, implying that wharves were pivotal to trade and transport even in medieval societies.

Here is a short comparative table of the word’s evolution:

Old Englishhwearfbank, shore
Old High Germanhwerbanto turn

Plural Forms
Interestingly, the plural of “wharf” comes in two variations—wharves and wharfs. Both forms are correct and used, though wharves is often preferred in formal contexts.

  • Wharves: Traditional and etymologically consistent
  • Wharfs: Simpler and phonetically straightforward


  1. Definition of wharf.
  2. Synonyms of wharf/wharfs/wharves.
  3. Sentence examples, wharf.
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