'Lime' vs 'Lemon': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on September 11, 2023

If you are looking for an explanation of the difference between 'lime' vs. 'lemon,' you are in luck!

Here is the short answer: 

  • A 'lime' is a small, round, yellowish-green citrus fruit that has a sour taste. 
  • A 'lemon' is a larger, more oval-shaped citrus fruit that has a pale to bright yellow color and is typically sweeter than a lime. 

The answer above gives you an overview of the difference between these terms. However, each word has several meanings.

To learn all of the ways to use these terms, read this entire guide!

What is the Difference Between 'Lime' vs. 'Lemon?'

'Lime' and 'lemon' are both citrus fruits that are commonly used in recipes to add acidity or to create a more dynamic flavor profile. In comparison, 'limes' are smaller and rounder than 'lemons,' and they are usually more sour.

'Lemons' are slightly larger yellow fruits that have a more oval shape. They are usually sweeter than 'limes,' especially if you are using Meyer or Santa Teresa lemons, which are the sweetest varieties.

However, there are many varieties of 'limes' and 'lemons.' The less acidic varieties typically taste sweeter.

Types of 'limes' include the:

  • Mexican lime
  • Castel lime
  • Australian finger lime
  • Perisian Tahiti lime
  • Bearss Tahiti lime
  • Blood lime
  • Kaffir lime
  • Rangpur lime
  • Calamansi lime

'Lemon' varieties include the:

  • Lisbon lemon
  • Meyer lemon
  • Yen Ben Lemon
  • Eureka lemon
  • Bearss lemon
  • Baboon lemon
  • Citron lemon
  • Verna lemon
  • Interdonato lemon
  • Limetta lemon
  • Primofiori or Fino Citron lemon
  • Kagzi lemon
  • Otaheite lemon
  • Ponderosa lemon
  • Villafranca lemon
  • Perrine lemon
  • Lemonade lemon
  • Lumia lemon
  • Volkamer lemon
  • Bush lemon
  • Buddha's hand lemon
  • Genoa lemon
  • Meditteranean sweet lemon
  • Sorrento lemon
  • Lamas lemon
  • Assam lemon
  • Pink Variegated lemon

Each region that produces limes or lemons has varieties that fit its cuisine. To create authentic dishes or recipes that taste like they should, you should not substitute lemons and limes, and you need to use the correct type. Otherwise, you will end up with a sweet dish that is supposed to be savory.

I speak from experience. Your family will probably not be happy with sweet hummus or lemon pie that is so tart it gives them a sour face.

When to Use 'Lime' vs. 'Lemon'

Knowing the difference between lemons and limes is one thing, but knowing when to use them is a completely different story. If you are using a recipe, you should follow it when buying ingredients.

However, if you are trying to create a dish on your own, there are a few things you should know.

When to Use Lemons

  • Western and Mediterranean dishes
  • Tea
  • Salads
  • Seafood
  • Fish
  • Cakes, pies, and tarts
  • Cocktails, like lemon drops, whiskey sours, Tom Collins, etc.

When to Use Limes

  • Southeastern Asian dishes
  • Mexican dishes
  • Latin American cuisine
  • Cakes, pies, and tarts
  • Drinks, like micheladas, margaritas, mojitos, Moscow mules, etc.

Definition of 'Lime': What Does 'Lime' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'lime' as a noun that means:

  • The small globe-shaped yellowish-green fruit from a widely cultivated Asian citrus tree with juicy, acidic pulp is used for flavoring and as a source of vitamin C
  • A tree that grows limes
  • A linden tree

It can also mean:

  • A highly infusible caustic solid that often contains calcium oxide and magnesium oxide, it is cultivated by calcining calcium calcium carbonate and is used in agricultural and other industrial applications
  • A dry white powder containing calcium hydroxide that is produced from quicklime treated with water
  • Calcium

'Lime' can also be a verb that means:

  • To spread lime or a sticky substance such as birdlime on something
  • To treat something with lime
  • Cause to become entangled with birdlime

Lime' can also be an adjective that means:

  • Of, containing, or relating to limestone or lime

Definition of 'Lemon': What Does 'Lemon' Mean?

The same source defines 'lemon' as a noun that means:

  • A fruit from the Citrus limon tree that bears oblong that contains seeds, pulp, juice, and a rind that essential oils are extracted from
  • A tree that bears lemons

It can also mean:

  • Something that is mechanically defective, especially an automobile

Synonyms of 'Lemon'

  • Disaster
  • Failure
  • Bust
  • Flop
  • Catastrophe
  • Clinker
  • Bomb
  • Disappointment
  • Miss
  • Clunker
  • Undependable

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Lime' vs. 'Lemon'

Now, let's look at the pronunciation of 'lime' vs. 'lemon.' These terms are often confusing for people who are learning English as a second language because many languages use a variation of limone or citron for 'lemon' and limona or citron for 'lime.'

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'lime' correctly:


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'lemon' properly:


Sample Sentences Using 'Lime' vs. 'Lemon'

Finally, read these sample sentences using 'lime' vs. 'lemon.' They will help you remember the correct meaning and usage of each.


  • Key lime pie is a delicious and refreshing dessert.
  • You need limes when you are making guacamole, margaritas, or fajita marinade.
  • Have you seen that gorgeous lime house on Memorial Drive? It is one of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen.
  • You can make cherry limeade by adding cherry juice and fresh lime to Sprite.
  • My favorite key lime pie recipe calls for lime juice, lime zest, sour cream, and sweetened condensed milk.


  • Lemon trees are a beautiful addition to a home garden, and they're relatively easy to grow.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon adds a burst of flavor to grilled salmon or red snapper.
  • Lemon cake is delicious and easy to make.
  • Surely, you have heard the saying, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.'


  • Many nurseries sell lemon lime trees.
  • It is not one plant that grows both fruits. Instead, it is a Meyer lemon tree twisted with a Key lime tree.
  • A bowl of fresh lemons and limes on your table is a great way to add color to your space.
  • A lot of people put grilled lemon on fajitas, but I like lime.

Recap: The Difference Between 'Lime' vs. 'Lemon'

Well, this is the end. Here is a recap of what you learned about the difference between 'lime' vs. 'lemon'.

  • 'Lime' is a smaller, globe-shaped, yellowish-green fruit with sour juice that people use as flavoring. 
  • 'Lemon' is a larger bright yellow fruit that is sometimes sweeter and more oval-shaped than a lime. 
  • There are many types of lemons and limes and they tend to complement the cuisine within the region where they are grown. 

If you are curious about the meanings of other commonly misused and mistaken words, check out the confusing words section before you go. In it, you will find hundreds of guides like this one that explain the meanings, pronunciations, and uses of the words they cover.

So, they are an excellent way to enrich your vocabulary while learning essential grammar, language, and writing skills!

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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