‘Waist’ vs ‘Waste’: What’s the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 12, 2023

Do you ‘waist’ time or ‘waste’ time? What’s the difference between these two words? Below, we’ll answer that, plus teach you how to pronounce both words and use them in a sentence correctly.

Need a quick answer?

Here it is:

  • ‘Waist’ is a noun and refers to a part of your body just below your torso.
  • ‘Waste’ could be a noun or a verb, and it could mean to spend carelessly or squander, or it could refer to uncultivated land, among other things.

These words sound identical when spoken aloud, but when it comes to usage, that’s where they’re different. That means you shouldn’t use them interchangeably.

 Word Choice: ‘Waist’ vs. ‘Waste’

The words ‘waist’ and ‘waste’ are homophones, which means they sound the same, but have different meanings.

  • The former is a noun that refers to a part of the human body between the torso and the pelvis.
  • The latter could refer to human waste, wasting food, garbage, or getting skinnier (wasting away).
  • It could also refer to a wasteland.

Or you could also be ‘waist deep’ into something, which could mean you’re in the middle of something or that you’re in trouble.

  • In the movie Waist Deep, an ex-convict gets tangled up with a gang after his car is hijacked with his son inside.

In the movie Fresh, Samuel L. Jackson’s character (Sam) says:

'Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted.'

Basically, you can ‘waste’ a lot of time trying to trim your ‘waist’ the wrong way.

‘Waste’ vs. ‘Waist’ – What’s the Difference?

The difference between these words is that ‘waste’ could refer to a desert or wasting food, while ‘waist’ refers to a body part or the middle part of something, such as an airplane.

  • You might also hear someone refer to a section of a blouse or other garment as the ‘waist’ of it.

Using the right word comes down to remembering which is the correct one.

Remember that ‘waste’ refers to garbage, a wasteland, or the loss of something, while ‘waist’ refers to the spot just above your hips. It could also mean to kill.

You know how when you play Grand Theft Auto, it says ‘wasted’ across the screen when you die? Well, try to remember that it’s spelledwasted’ and not ‘waisted.’

Definition of ‘Waist’: What Does ‘Waist’ Mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘waist’ as:

  • The typically narrowed part of the body between the hips and chest or upper back
  • The greatly constricted basal part of the abdomen of some insects (such as wasps and flies)
  • The part of something corresponding to or resembling the human waist, such as the part of a ship’s deck between the poop, forecastle and the middle part of a sailing ship between foremast and mainmast, or the middle section of the fuselage of an airplane
  • A garment or the part of a garment covering the body from the neck to the waistline or just below: bodice or blouse
  • Waistline

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Middle
  • Waistline
  • Midriff
  • Midsection

Definition of ‘Waste’: What Does ‘Waste’ Mean?

The same dictionary defines ‘waste’ as:

  • A sparsely settled or barren region (desert)
  • Uncultivated land
  • A broad and empty expanse (as of water)
  • The act or an instance of wasting (the state of being wasted)
  • Loss through the breaking down of bodily tissue
  • Gradual loss or decrease by use, wear, or decay
  • Refuse from places of human or animal habitation
  • Garbage, rubbish
  • Excrement
  • Sewage
  • Material derived by mechanical and chemical weathering of the land and moved down sloping surfaces or carried by streams to the sea
  • To lay waste
  • To damage or destroy gradually and progressively
  • To cause to shrink in physical bulk or strength (emaciate, enfeeble)
  • To wear away or diminish gradually (consume)
  • To spend or use carelessly (squander)
  • To allow it to be used inefficiently or become dissipated
  • Kill or injure severely
  • To lose weight, strength, or vitality (often used with away)
  • To become diminished in bulk or substance
  • To become consumed
  • To spend money or consume property extravagantly or improvidently
  • Being wild and uninhabited (desolate)
  • Arid, empty
  • Discarded as worthless, defective, or of no use (refuse)

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Extravagance
  • Prodigality
  • Blow
  • Dissipate
  • Lavish
  • Run through
  • Throw away
  • Misspend
  • Fiddle away
  • Lose
  • Spend
  • Barren
  • Dead
  • Poor
  • Impoverished

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Waist’ and ‘Waste’

Are you wondering how to pronounce ‘waist’ and ‘waste’?

Here’s a short guide.

To pronounce both words correctly, here’s the phonetic spelling:


How to Use ‘Waist’ and ‘Waste’ in a Sentence

Now that we know what both words mean and how to pronounce them, let’s look at some examples of how to use them in a sentence.


  • I’d kill to have your waistline. What do you do to stay so thin? Tell me all your secrets!
  • Miss Hamilton has the tiniest waist I’ve ever seen. She must be a double zero or at least a zero.
  • I haven’t had a size six waist in almost ten years, but I’m so close to reaching my goal weight.
  • My date had broad shoulders and a narrow waist. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I didn’t want to bring attention to it just yet.
  • My best friend has let herself go so much; all she wears now is pants with an elastic waist.
  • The waist of this skirt fits perfectly. I think I’m going to get a few more of them in different colors.


  • I hate when people waste my time. I’ve got a lot of things I could be doing and would rather be doing than this.
  • We don’t really have a lot of time to waste. Our meeting with the head of the organization is one hour. If you’re not prepared by now, you’ll never be.
  • My boyfriend wasted ten years of my life and never proposed. I told him, ‘The ball is in your court.’ And he finally proposed!
  • You need to start managing your finances better. You waste a lot of money on things you don’t need for yourself. Like that ice cream maker, you never used.
  • We don’t waste food in this house. You’ll eat every bit of your dinner until your plate is clean.
  • You’re not going to waste my money any further by continuing to break up things in this house. You’re going to live with your dad!

Final Thoughts on ‘Waist’ and ‘Waste’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘Waist’ is a noun and refers to the part of your body just below your stomach, right around your hips.
  • ‘Waste’ could be used as a noun or a verb, and it could mean to spend carelessly or squander, or it could refer to uncultivated land, among other things.

Remember, these words sound identical when spoken aloud, but they mean different things. That means you should avoid using them interchangeably.

If you ever get stuck on usage or meaning, you can always come back to review what you learned. We’ve got a ton of other content on other confusing words and phrases you might come across as you’re learning the language. Feel free to check it out.

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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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