Do you know what are elves and dwarfs? They are fictional species for fantasy stories.

I was wondering if words like swordman, manpower, policeman, spearman, etc (everything with man) could be replaced with swordelf, dwarfpower, policedwarf, spearelf, etc Can I replace the part "man" with another?

In case of yes, about elves, would be ...elf or ...elve?


You can, but in my opinion they don't really "work," except for a few cases. The most common substitution you'll see is changing mankind into whatever other species. I don't think I've seen variations of manpower or swordsman. I think fantasy authors just use different words, like using warrior instead of swordsman.

  • 1
    I agree, and would note that we continue to use "horsepower" when referring to engines, even though the power is no longer provided by horses.
    – Katy
    Feb 8 '19 at 19:47
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    +1 Tolkien uses "gentlehobbit"; but that's by way of nudging the basic joke that the hobbits are quintessentially English. Feb 8 '19 at 19:56
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    I'm pretty sure "swordswoman" is well-attested, but that's not quite the question.
    – SamBC
    Feb 8 '19 at 20:08
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    Swordsman would become sword fighter and manpower would become human labour (or just labour if you want to be species agnostic). Feb 9 '19 at 2:36
  • @StoneyB Good example! I was trying to remember how Tolkien handled this issue. Feb 9 '19 at 22:06

You would be coining a term, albeit in a perfectly logical way. Everyone would know what you meant, but I personally wouldn't do it unless you're aiming for humour. It would be very hard to do without coming off as at least a little flippant.

  • I agree that it comes across as only appropriate for humor. I could imagine an author like Terry Pratchett doing it, but it wouldn't work in a more serious work of fantasy. Feb 8 '19 at 21:51

Not really - you would be inventing new words if you did that. Some people might find it sexist to use "man" rather than something more gender-neutral like "person", but "personpower", "swordperson", etc. are not standard English. If you replaced "man" with something else the meaning would probably be understood, but again, it would sound like a made-up word.

EDIT to add: I think it might work better if you hyphenated the words, e.g. "police-elf" or "dwarf-power" - this might be more "acceptable" English.

And to answer your other question, the singular of "elves" is "elf". The plural of "dwarf" is either "dwarfs" or "dwarves".

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