Veteran’s Day or Veterans Day: Which Is It?

Or Veterans' Day, for that matter? On November 11, our country will honor veterans current and past. The only question: To add that apostrophe or skip it?

On November 11, Americans celebrate Veterans Day, a holiday meant for honoring all those who have honorably served. While there are plenty of Veterans Day facts to know about this day, its name provides confusion all its own.

Unlike many other holidays, Veterans Day presents a bit of a grammatical conundrum. Yes, “Veterans Day”—with no apostrophe. While you’ll write “Mother’s Day,” “Father’s Day,” and even “St. Patrick’s Day,” the November 11 holiday is not “Veteran’s Day” or even “Veterans’ Day.” And that’s not just a hotly debated confusing grammar rule; it’s according to the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. Let’s (not “lets”) get to the bottom of the correct spelling of Veterans Day. And once you know how and why it’s spelled the way it is, brush up on these Veterans Day quotes before the day itself arrives.

Veterans Day or Veteran’s/Veterans’ Day: Which is it?

Along with most other national holidays, there is a “right” way to write Veterans Day, as the government has named each holiday specifically. And for the November 11 holiday, it is “Veterans Day”—no apostrophe. Apostrophe rules are just as confusing as when to use a semicolon.

Why avoid the apostrophe?

When it comes to holidays, an apostrophe is used to indicate possession, as in it is that person or people’s holiday: Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools’ Day, etc. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, we cannot assign an apostrophe before the “s” in Veterans Day because that would indicate the holiday belongs to one single veteran, as in “Veteran’s Day.” That’s a simple(-ish) matter of when to use an apostrophe.

However, the debate sparks when we talk about losing the apostrophe or adding it after the “s,” as in “Veterans’ Day,” so it would refer to veterans, plural. This, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is still incorrect because “it’s not a day ‘belonging’ to all veterans, it’s a day for honoring all veterans.” The apostrophe implies belonging, which isn’t accurate in this case.

Instead, in the context of the holiday, “veterans” is an attributive noun, meaning it’s a noun that modifies another noun as if it were an adjective. It sounds odd when it’s referring to people, but you likely wouldn’t consider adding an apostrophe to the less-legitimate holiday “National Homemade Cookies Day.” The day doesn’t belong to them; it’s about them. And, for that, matter, “Department of Veterans Affairs” has no apostrophe either. The affairs don’t belong to the veterans; they’re just concerning them. We certainly wouldn’t blame anyone casually looking up the history of Veterans Day to know that! Here are other common grammar mistakes that are easy to make.

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Alex Frost
Alexandra Frost is a freelance writer and journalism teacher who covers parenting, health, relationships, communications and business, education, and more for Reader's Digest and other publications. Her work has been featured in Glamour, Parents, Healthline, Today's Parent, Women's Health, and We Are Teachers. She has a Master's in Education and a Bachelor's in journalism/communication from Miami University, and resides in Cincinnati with her three sons under age five. See more of her work at Alexandra-Frost.com.
Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.