Possessives and Attributives

Q. Good morning! I want to know, should it be “farmers’ market” or “farmers market”? I see everything out there, including “farmer’s market.” Anyway, just a seasonal curiosity for you all!

A. We prefer “farmers’ market.” In Merriam-Webster, “farmers market,” “farmers’ market,” and “farmer’s market” are all listed, in that order, as equal variants (separated by “or”). M-W is descriptive—its entries reflect what it finds in published sources. Clearly, the lexicographers at M-W are seeing what you’re seeing. Normally Chicago would advise opting for the first-listed term in M-W. But for terms like “farmers’ market” that denote group ownership or participation, opting for the plural possessive will help you to maintain editorial consistency across like terms. For more advice, see CMOS 7.27.