‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’: What’s the Difference? At first glance, this may look like a case of improper versus proper spelling, but both of these words are, in fact, correct. Learning new words that look incorrect can be confusing at first, but once you’ve mastered them you can add them to your arsenal of words.
In a rush? Here’s a short overview of what’s to come:
As mentioned above, ‘Loath’ is not actually a misspelled version of ‘Loathe’ but its own word with its own meaning. A large difference between these two words, aside from their spelling, of course, is the part of speech they belong to.
A major thing the difference in spelling does for these two words is determine pronunciation. We will discuss pronunciation more in depth below but know that the “e” at the end of ‘Loathe’ isn’t just for decoration.
Now that you’ve seen a little preview of these words let’s dive deeper and take a closer look at ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’.
The word comes from both the Germanic Old English origin ‘lāth,’ which meant “hostile” or “spiteful,” and also pulls from the Dutch and German words ‘leed’ and ‘leid,’ which both mean “sorrow.”
According to Oxford Languages, ‘Loathe’ is a verb which means:
The word is similar in origin to ‘Loath’ but not entirely the same. ‘Loathe’ comes from the Old English ‘lāthian,’ which evolved to the Middle English ‘lothen’ which meant “hateful” or “disgusting.”
Although these words look like they would be pronounced identically, the addition of the “e” at the end of ‘Loathe’ activates a very common and important linguistic difference. The “e” at the end of ‘Loathe’ causes the preceding “th” sound to be voiced as opposed to the “th” in ‘Loath’ which is silent. This is the difference between voiced and unvoiced vowels.
You can try this example by saying the words aloud and comparing them.
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Loath’ as a guide:
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Loathe’ as a guide:
Sometimes the best way to learn words is to see how they function in the real world. This can be especially helpful when the words, like ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe,’ appear to be so similar and come from related origins. Context is, of course, what is most important to pay attention to here because it will help you distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate times to use these words.
While ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’ can’t quite be considered homophones, they are very similar both in their spelling and origin, which can be confusing at first glance. However, as we take a closer look at these two words, we see just how different they are, particularly when it comes to pronunciation. This article has also served as a bit of a linguistics lesson, but it’s also a lesson in learning how to work with words that seem almost designed to trip you up.
Want to review it? Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered:
Learning linguistic tools can be a great way to unlock new vocabulary, and it can also help you with similar words that have a similar structure. Be sure to check out other confusing words to get a leg up on avoiding confusion in future assignments and conversations.