Blue Flower

What is the plural of OS (Operating System)?

Please note that I do not get paid to write these articles.

(updated 20141020CE)
To my dislike, I have come to the conclusion that it is OSs, and that some are also making use of OS as plural too.  Yes, one can see how OSs could get confused with other abbreviations that are OSS.

The below will break down the various considerations based on the Amglish (American English/US language/American language), and English language (British English/England language). :) 

  • OS = Operating System (Example Sentences = Microsoft Windows XP is an operating system.  Microsoft Windows XP is an OS.  This operating system is not free.  This OS is not free.)

  • OS = Operating Systems (Example Sentences = These operating systems are free.  These OS are free.).  This is not the preferred usage.

  • OS's = Operating System's (Example Sentence = This is the operating system's core code.  This is the OS's core code.)

  • OSs = Operating Systems (Example Sentence = There are many operating systems in the world; such as DOS, Atari, Macintosh, Unix, Centos, Windows 8, and many dozens more, if not hundreds.  There are many OSs in the world.)

  • OSs' = Operating Systems' (Example Sentence = These operating systems' cores run at 8GHz due to parallel operation channels.  These OSs' cores run at 8GHz due to parallel operation channels.)

  • OS' = Operating Systems' (Example Sentence = These operating systems' cores run at 8GHz due to parallel operation channels.  These OS' cores run at 8GHz due to parallel operation channels.).  Only happens when OS is used/seen as a plural form too, but preferred or should be using OSs'.

  • OSes = Simply wrong.  Expanded, this would become Operating Systemes, and that is wrong spelling.

I would have much more preferred it if it was OSes, but it just is not correct, even though I have seen some British folks make use of OSes.  As I recall, the reason confusion occurs with usage of OSes is because there are other phrases that also have the abbreviation of OS used for them, but one or more of those have plurals that end with es.  I saw one phrase that OSes may have been correct for, and, again, that is because the other phrase's plural gets added es to show it is plural, and so OSes made sense for only that phrase.  It is incorrect to use it for Operating Systems.

OS's references something belonging to a single operating system.

OSs would correctly reflect proper grammar for a plural abbreviation of operating systems.  Know that you will find OS being used as a plural form too; such as "some of these OS are no longer being supported".  Based on the above logic, it is preferred to be "some of these OSs are no longer being supported".

OSs' references something associated with or belonging to a group of operating systems.

OS' references something associated with or belonging to a group of operating systems.  This happens only when OS is used as a plural representation, and it is preferred to be OSs' to quickly and easily distinguish singular and plural uses of OS.  It helps a lot when searching.  When OS is used as both a singular and plural representation, it becomes harder, and searches are more difficult. 

In case someone is actually considering OS'es, then know that this is very wrong in my belief.  OS'es = Operating System'es.  Does not make sense.  OS is not a stand alone word, but an abbreviation (specifically an initialism).  If there was such a word as Os, then ya, Oses may be a correct spelling, but the abbreviation in consideration here is OS, and it is not the same as a word of os or name or Os. 

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  • You are welcome, and thank you for posting. It's appreciated.

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  • Guest - Anonymous

    To pluralise something ending in an 's' you add 'es' so OSes but I prefer OS as this is an abrieviation of Operating Systems

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  • Thanks for your comment: ".....ending in an 's' you add 'es' so OSes but I prefer OS as this is an abrieviation of Operating Systems".
    Sorry, but that is incorrect, and I covered this in the article above. As you indirectly indicated, OS is not a word. OSes would be wrong for an OS referring to an Operating System.

    I also talked above about how people get confused with an OSes used with other phrases, thinking it can be used for an OS that refers to an Operating System.

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  • «OSes = Simply wrong.»

    I beg to differ. “Laser” is an acronym, which stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation", and it's plural form is still "lasers", even though "...emissionf of radiations" makes absolutely no sense. It's perfectly correct to pluralize "laser" as "lasers".

    Same goes for "radar" (radio detection and ranging). "Radio detection and rangings" is just ridiculous, bur "radars" is still correct.

    You see, you claim "OS" is not a standalone word, but I don’t really agree with that. Just like "laser" and "radar", OS is treated as a word on its own, and therefore its plural has to be OSes.

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  • Thank you for your post. I understand your points, but I regret to inform you that you are wrong on all 3 counts.

    Regarding Radar. You are confusing the noun word of Radar with the Acronym RADAR. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/radar.

    Same mistake is being made for Laser. You are confusing Laser with LASER. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/laser?s=t

    Arguing the origins of Laser and Radar would not make a difference either.

    When you reference Operating System via OS, then that is an "abbreviation (specifically an initialism)". Note that I said initialism and not acronym, which also has an impact.

    Sorry, but it is completely wrong to use OSes for Operating Systems, even though this unintended mistake has historically been done.
    There are other phrases out there that also get represented by OS, and for some of them OSes is actually correct due to the spelling of those other Phrases, but again, OSes is completely wrong for Operating Systems. Obviously, this can create confusion and wrong usage in either direction.

    By the way, RADAR stands for many other things too, such as " Random Access Digital Audio Recorder". Same goes for LASER.

    Comment last edited on about 10 months ago by Super User
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  • So apparently I can neither reply to a comment nor register an account (which I assume is necessary to do the first), so I am going to write this a top-level comment since there is no option.

    @Tech Notes: honesly, I think both links you posted actually kinda prove my point, which is that OS can be both an initialism, and a word on its own. I am not confusing anything; both radar and laser are acronyms we also use as regular words, but they're still acronyms.

    But even if I am wrong about that, I maintain that you should pluralize an acronym/initialism/abbreviation that ends in "s" by adding "es" to the end. What the acronym stands for doesn't really matter, because even if an acronym ends a word that can't be pluralized, we still add "s" to the end, and I'm sure you don't have a problem with that.

    There are a few sources that agree with me on that, like this one for example:

    blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/abbreviations/#Q13


    And there's also this:
    en.wiktionary.org/wiki/OSes


    And many manuals of style accept 's as a way to pluralize abbreviations/acronyms/initialisms, so OS's is also acceptable.

    So, writing OSes isn't wrong, nor is writing OS's. It's just a matter of choice, or if you have to follow a style manual, it's a matter of what it tells you to do.

    I personally prefer using OSes as the plural of OS, and will continue to do so. I have plenty of evidence showing that it is acceptable to do

    Comment last edited on about 10 months ago by Super User
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  • You can register at this site. You just click on Register, which is shown under the section of "Login to post a comment", and Register is under the Username field, next to "forgot password". If you do not see it, then some plugin you have on your browser might be not allowing you to see it. The URL for it would be http://technotes.whw1.com/component/users/?view=registration. Once you register, then you can reply to comments.

    OS is not a stand alone word, but an abbreviation (specifically an initialism). If there was such a word as Os, then ya, Oses may be a correct spelling, but the abbreviation in consideration here is OS, and it is not the same as a word of os or name or Os.


    OS's references something belonging to a single operating system.


    Even the blog you reference agrees with the post here, and it states "To make an abbreviation plural, add an –s".

    the reason confusion occurs with usage of OSes is because there are other phrases that also have the abbreviation of OS used for them, but one or more of those have plurals that end with es. I saw one phrase that OSes may have been correct for, and, again, that is because the other phrase's plural gets added es to show it is plural, and so OSes made sense for ONLY that phrase. It is incorrect to use it for Operating Systems.

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  • Oh, I found another link I'd like to share with you:

    (TN removed URL due to it being so extremely incorrect, not wanting to propagate wrong info, and large quantity of complaints by people about 3rd party article being wrong.)

    There you go. "I regret to inform you that you are wrong" is what you said to me right? Right back at ya, mate.

    Comment last edited on about 6 months ago by Super User
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  • Oh I see the "Register" link, but what it does is take me to a login page, with no option to register whatsoever. And I tried it on clean installation of Chromium just to make sure. It's a bug on your site, and you should fix it.

    There is one thing I'd like to address from your last comment:

    Even the blog you reference agrees with the post here, and it states "To make an abbreviation plural, add an –s".


    Now you're cherry-picking here. The blog I linked states «To make an abbreviation plural, add an –s (or –es, for abbreviations ending in s already). And it exemplifies CSes as the plural form of CS.»

    I read your post, there is no need to quote it. I just don’t agree with it, that’s all. As I said before, many style manuals accept 's as a way to form. The one I linked, incidentally, doesn’t, but it does accept -es on abbreviations that end in S. Can pluralizing an abbreviantion with 's cause confusion, because it looks like a possessive? Sure. Doesn't mean it's wrong, though.

    I am not arguing that OSs is wrong. I'm Just arguing that OSes is not wrong.

    You can write OSs, OS's, OSes, they are all acceptable, depending on who you ask. None of them is wrong, and which one you should use is just a matter of preference. Or in case you have to follow a style guide, you should do whatever it tells you. Some will tell you to only ever pluralize with -s, others will tell you to use -es if the abbreviation ends in S.

    Have a good day.

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  • Guest - Janet

    :) I see your point about it being OSs for Operating System, and agreed. It makes compete sense and is according to English language rules.

    :o It amazes me that you clearly explained why OSes is wrong for Operating Systems and yet, people are still posting for OSes. I think people are not reading your article fully before posting a response, otherwise it is just foolish to be pushing for OSes.

    Comment last edited on about 6 months ago by Super User
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