'Loath' vs 'Loathe': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on July 24, 2023

‘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: 

  • ‘Loath’ is a word that describes unwillingness and is not, in fact, a typo. 
  • ‘Loathe’ is a word that means to hate deeply. 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’?

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. 

  • ‘Loath’ is an adjective meaning it describes or modifies things
  • ‘Loathe’ is a verb meaning it is an action word

Knowing that these two words belong to different parts of speech helps us keep their functions separate, so we know in which context they should be used. 

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’.

Definition of ‘Loath’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Loath’ is an adjective that means: 

  • Reluctant; unwilling
    • “I was loath to leave.”

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.” 

Synonyms for ‘Loath’

  • Against
  • Averse
  • Afraid
  • Hesitant
  • Reluctant
  • Unwilling
  • Disinclined
  • Opposed
  • Indisposed
  • Remiss

Antonyms for ‘Loath’

  • Eager
  • Ready
  • Approving
  • Willing
  • In favor
  • Unopposed
  • For
  • Keen
  • Enthusiastic

Phrases with ‘Loath’

  • Loath to admit
  • Loath to attend
  • Nothing loath

Definition of ‘Loathe’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Loathe’ is a verb which means: 

  • Feel intense dislike or disgust for
    • “She loathed him on sight.”

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.”

Synonyms of ‘Loathe’

  • Abhor
  • Hate
  • Despise
  • Detest
  • Abominate
  • Decline
  • Execrate
  • Revolt

Antonyms for ‘Loathe’

  • Adore
  • Admire
  • Love
  • Cherish
  • Like
  • Accept
  • Enjoy
  • Approve
  • Sanction

Phrases with ‘Loathe’

  • Loathe entirely
  • Loathsome
  • To loathe
  • Loathe someone

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’

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. 

For example:

  • The word ‘mother’ is voiced, and you glide through the “th” sound.
  • But, in the word ‘moth’ (which has an identical construction with just no proceeding “-er”), the “th” sound is unvoiced and stops the humming of the mouth.

You can try this example by saying the words aloud and comparing them. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Loath’ as a guide: 

  • \ləʊθ\ or ‘loh-th’ (remember there’s a hard stop after the “th”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Loathe’ as a guide: 

  • ‘Loh-dh’ (the “dh” in place of the “th” shows that the ending is voiced)

How to Use ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’ in a Sentence

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. 

‘Loath’ Example Sentences

  • Given how hot and humid it was, she was loath to leave the house at all that day. 
  • He was loath to lend money to his friend for the third time since he still hadn't paid him back for the first two. 
  • I am loath to listen to country music since I find the instruments to be irritating. 
  • The dog was loath to leave his spot in the car where he could stick his head out the window.

‘Loathe’ Example Sentences

  • The two schools had rival football teams whose players absolutely loathed each other. 
  • She loathed her ex-boyfriend for dumping her in public on Valentine’s Day.
  • The kids loathed playing in their school uniforms at recess because of how stiff and hot they were. 
  • I loathe the thought of only being able to eat one food for the rest of my life because I know I would get sick of it. 

Final Advice on ‘Loath’ vs ‘Loathe’

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:

  • ‘Loath’ is an adjective, not a misspelling, that means unwilling or reluctant,
  • Meanwhile, ‘Loathe’ is a verb that means to dislike or hate strongly. 
  • Remember that the presence of a vowel at the end of the word can cause the “th” sound to be either voiced or unvoiced/silent. 

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.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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