People vs. Peoples

What is the difference in the definition of “people” and “peoples”?  When I was in grammar school, I learned that the singular form of the word was “person” and the plural was “people”.  But suddenly, as an adult, I’m seeing professional publications all over the place with the word “peoples” in it.  Like the word “people” isn’t quite plural enough any more, we have to add an “s” to the end of it.

I did a little research and discovered that the dictionary allows for an “s” on the end of the word if it refers to an entire community of people, like “the Aboriginal peoples.”  But tell me, doesn’t it mean exactly the same thing if it says “the Aboriginal people”?

This probably is particularly bugging me because the Bible translation I’ve been using recently (English Standard Version) constantly refers to people as peoples.  Grrr….  And it’s THE BIBLE, so it can’t be wrong, can it?  Well, I don’t think the Bible is wrong, just the editors who decided to put an “s” on the end of all references to people in it.  Even if the editors are adhering to the principle above, they’re still getting it wrong.  When David writes in the Psalms about “all people”, he’s referring to everyone – not a particular group of people, yet they consistently write “all peoples”.

I maintain that the word “peoples” is not really a word and all use of is should cease and desist now.

Now that I’m writing about it, the word just looks weird to me.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?


Filed under Just Goofing Around

11 responses to “People vs. Peoples

  1. Kelly Sims

    I think you mean to say “PUPILS.”

    Seriously, I agree with you. I much prefer the word “PERSONS.”

    Or how ’bout “INDIVIDUALS.”

    Or, better yet, “HUNKS.”

    Now, we’re talkin’.

  2. Kelly Sims

    OK, just think about: case names do NOT read: “Peoples v. John Doe.”

    The correct wording is “People v. John Doe.”

    BTW, what is the “esv” version?? The early edition? I seriously don’t know and if I googled it, then it would take away all the fun. 😉

    • judi farwell

      Is this the Kelly that use to work at USAir back in the 90’s? If so, email me Kel!!!! I was thinking of your delish cakes and need the recipe and of course would love to know where you are and how you are?????


  3. If I am asked about it, I would still prefer using ‘people’ rather than adding ‘s’ to the word.

    It is much better sounding.

    Also, ‘equipment’ or ‘furniture’ do take a more plural form by adding ‘pieces of’ preceding the words I’ve mentioned. 🙂

    However, if it is accepted or already added as an entry in dictionaries, then it is just a matter of accepting the ‘changes’. That is the dynamics of language after all. It changes every now and then. 🙂 It is your choice whether you use the old accepted one or embrace the change[s]. 🙂

  4. Hi Kindly refer this link below..I hope it helps you…:)

  5. Peoples refers to different etnical groups.
    Chinese people, for instance, refers to the etnical group of chinese. Peoples of China refers to all the etnical groups like Tibetans, Mongols etc. who live in China. Hope this makes it a bit clearer.

  6. Confused

    …the bible can’t be wrong?

    • Thnk you for this information. My grandson corrected .com when I used the word people’s whe talking about the Mayan culture; “people’s” sounded incorrect to him. I guess people has become the accepted singular and the plural.

  7. Richard

    People refers to multiple individuals; peoples refers to multiple ethnic groups. So if you are talking about Koreans, you would say, the Korean people, but if you were referring to the Koreans, Japanese, and the Chinese, you would say, the peoples of Asia.

  8. Rev. Brad Childs

    In the Bible People is plural and refers to individuals. However peoples with the “s” is intended to refer to “people groups”. And “all peoples” refers to all people groups including the authors group (sort of like saying “Jew and Gentile [or ‘non-Jews’] alike”).

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