‘Loss' vs 'Lost': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 29, 2022

Have you ‘lost’ or ‘loss’ the last round of a game? These two words can easily trip most people up, even native English speakers. Wondering what the difference is between the two? And how to use each correctly. We’ve got you covered. You’ll learn that and how to use it in a sentence correctly.

The short answer is that, while they both have to do with losing, ‘lost’ is the past tense of ‘lose,’ while ‘loss’ is a noun that refers to the act of losing.

Loss vs. Lost: What’s the Difference?

As you just learned above, ‘loss’ and ‘lost’ both have to do with losing. However, ‘lost’ is the past tense of ‘lose’, and ‘loss’ describes the act of losing something or someone. Although they sound similar, they don't sound exactly the same (like homophones).

Now that you know the difference between the two let’s talk about how to use each one correctly.

Loss vs. Lost – How to Use Each Correctly

Whether you’ve ‘lost’ a game or suffered a terrible ‘loss’ when you lost someone close to you, it’s important to know how to use each word correctly.

That’s why we should define both words to get a clearer picture. 

Definition and Meaning of ‘Loss’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘loss’ is: “destruction, ruin,” “the act or fact of being unable to keep or maintain something or someone,” “the partial or complete deterioration or absence of a physical capability or function,” “the harm or privation resulting from losing or being separated from someone or something,” “an instance of losing someone or something,” and “a person or thing or an amount that is lost.”

It also means: “losses plural: killed, wounded, or captured soldiers,” “the power diminution of a circuit or circuit element corresponding to the conversion of electrical energy into heat by resistance,” “failure to gain, win, obtain, or utilize,” “an amount by which the cost of something exceeds its selling price,” “decrease in amount, magnitude, value, or degree,” “the amount of an insured’s financial detriment by death or damage that the insurer is liable for,” and “the distance the ball is moved away from the goal during a play [in football].”

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Mislaying
  • Misplacement

Definition and Meaning of ‘Lost’ 

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘lost’ is: “not made use of, won, or claimed,” “no longer possessed,” “no longer known,” “ruined or destroyed physically or morally: desperate,” “taken away or beyond reach or attainment: denied,” “insensible, hardened,” and “unable to find the way.”

It also means: “no longer visible,” “lacking assurance or self-confidence: helpless,” “rapt, absorbed,” “not appreciated or understood: wasted,” “obscured or overlooked during the process or activity,” and “hopelessly unattainable: futile.”

A few synonyms of the word include:

  • Gone
  • Missing
  • Mislaid
  • Misplaced

Similar Confusing Words

A lot of words in the English language sound similar but mean different things. Take a look at some examples.

Margarita vs. Margherita

While these words sound the same, they mean different things. ‘Margarita’ refers to the drink, while ‘Margherita’ refers to pizza.

Your vs. You’re

Even native English speakers tend to confuse ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’ The difference is ‘your’ implies possession, and ‘you’re’ is a contraction of ‘you are.’

Choose vs. Chose

Another set of words that come from the same root word but have slightly different meanings is ‘choose’ and ‘chose.’ In this case, ‘chose’ is simply the past tense of ‘choose.’

Now that you know the difference between the two let’s discuss how to use both words in a sentence correctly.

How to Use ‘Loss’ Correctly in a Sentence 

Take look at how to use ‘loss’ correctly in a sentence:

  • That broken wheelbarrow was a real loss to our farm.
  • My grandmother’s passing last year was a real loss for our family.
  • My niece took the loss of my sister really hard.
  • I don’t need another loss like the one I suffered last year.

How to Use ‘Lost’ Correctly in a Sentence

Now, let’s see how you’d use ‘lost’ in a sentence correctly:

  • Maria lost her balloon at the fair almost as soon as she got it.
  • She lost the necklace her grandmother gave her during field hockey.
  • Don’t get lost in the forest when you go out hiking. It can be a pretty confusing landscape.
  • I lost the race and ended up in 6th place.

Final Thoughts on ‘Loss’ and ‘Lost’

Now that you know the difference between ‘loss’ and ‘lost,’ you should have no trouble using them both in a sentence correctly (especially with the above sentences as a guide). The subtle differences in the words should provide clues about usage.

You might be able to remember if you think about how ‘lost’ is the past tense of ‘lose,’ and they both end in the letter ‘t.’ But if you ever get stuck, just come back here to this page and refresh your memory.

We’ve got a whole content library of articles dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases. Come back whenever you need to.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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