I am puzzled by this. Why is "aircrafts" invalid, while "crafts" can be used legitimately? I've also heard that "crafts" cannot be used because the plural of "craft" is always "craft". Which is right?

  • 9
    Don’t forget, there are several uses of the word craft. I could say that pottery, painting, and sewing are all crafts. I could also say that airplanes, pontoon boats, and the space shuttle are also crafts. – J.R. Feb 13 '17 at 1:49
  • 4
    While airplanes, pontoon boats, and the space shuttle being crafts, why aren't multiple aircraft of a single kind called 'aircrafts?' – Kim YuJin Feb 13 '17 at 1:52
  • 5
    Have you looked at a dictionary yet? What did you find? – J.R. Feb 13 '17 at 2:09
  • 16
    I have a feeling that, unfortunately, the answer is "because it is". English frequently does not make sense. – Andrew Feb 13 '17 at 2:52
  • 5
    @J.R. The sentence "airplanes, pontoon boats, and the space shuttle are also crafts" sounds incorrect to me. They would be "craft of various kinds", not "crafts of various kinds". – IMSoP Feb 13 '17 at 14:32

"Craft" is one of those words that has several very different meanings.

"Craft" could mean "skilled work" or "hobby". In this case, the plural is "crafts" - such as in "arts and crafts".

"Craft" can also mean a vehicle that people use to travel through water, air, or outer space. In this case, the plural is "craft" (no 's') - such as in "aircraft", "watercraft", or "spacecraft".

Here's an explanation for why this is:

Use for "small boat" is first recorded 1670s, probably from a phrase similar to vessels of small craft and referring either to the trade they did or the seamanship they required, or perhaps it preserves the word in its original sense of "power."

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary, Craft

So, it sounds like we have the British Navy to thank for this confusing usage.

  • 2
    Heh, I beat you by about a minute. 😏 Up-voted your answer, though, for pure etymology. – RichF Feb 13 '17 at 3:39
  • 5
    I suppose we should really refer to it as "The Royal Navy" instead :) – Richiban Feb 13 '17 at 11:24
  • It seems like it’s worth pointing out that craft can also be a verb, and as such can get the -s ending, as in he crafts something, but various derived terms like aircraft cannot be used this way. – KRyan Feb 13 '17 at 15:31
  • 1
    If I were talking about the number of boats on the river, I would say there are "15 watercraft", but I would also say there are "15 crafts". Maybe that's technically grammatically incorrect, but it's what seems intuitive to me as a native US speaker. – David K Feb 13 '17 at 16:07
  • 2
    Just to pipe up as another native speaker, to my ear the plural of craft when talking about boats is also craft. Which is different than @DavidK provided, maybe it is a regionalism? – Ukko Feb 13 '17 at 18:59

I think there is a distinction to be drawn here which will allow you to avoid confusion; namely: the noun "craft" has several meanings, while "aircraft" has only one.

The meaning you are focused on is "craft" as a moving vessel, such as watercraft, aircraft, or spacecraft. All three of these terms as well as "craft" itself are the same in their singular and plural forms, like the word "deer."

Three craft were in the water, two in the air.

However, "craft" also means "an activity involving skill in making things by hand." When the word is used with this meaning, it is pluralized normally:

  1. That potter really knows his craft.
  2. His two crafts were cabinet making and bricklaying.
  • 1
    I'm glad you mentioned deer. Turns out a lot of animal words follow this phenomenon (plural same as the singular), such as sheep, quail, shrimp, fish, and elk. This blog post mentions the -craft family in its discussion on the matter. – J.R. Feb 13 '17 at 8:47
  • 5
    @Separatrix - hehe, you've just given me a mental image of sneaking through the undergrowth to hunt down a herd of shrimp. – Simba Feb 13 '17 at 9:39
  • 1
    @FabioTurati 2 complicating factors. 1st is the primary meanings of craft having different pluralization rules. J.R. had just written "crafts" in relation to skills, so it was an easy mistake to extend that when in the same sentence he spoke of craft in relation to vessels. 2nd is he was speaking of classifications of vessels, not vessels themselves -- a pluralized plural. That sort of makes it only half of a mistake, IMO. One might get away with, "There were three groups of deers with at least 5 deer in each group." Not right, but understandable to want to do. – RichF Feb 13 '17 at 12:12
  • 2
    @paolo - I may have made a mistake, but it was anything but unintentional. I gave it some thought before I typed my sentence. – J.R. Feb 13 '17 at 17:44
  • 2
    @Wildcard Wow, when you "suggest an edit", you go all out. 😎 I would have accepted it, but someone else had already approved it. – RichF Feb 14 '17 at 4:42

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.