New Word Wednesday: loath vs loathe

Here’s a pet peeve word of mine, courtesy of my Australian father, whose insistence that American English was often wrong has caused my accent to be a very strange mixture of American, British, and Australian words…I pronounce “herb” with an h, frequently say “chips” when I meant “fries”, and say “different from” instead of “different than” (or the Australian version, “different to”!).

Today’s topic is on the difference between “loath” and “loathe”. These are different words, and pronounced differently.


loath adjective

  • reluctant; unwilling

“I was loath to leave this fantastic party, but I had to work in the morning.”

Origin: Old English lāth “hostile, spiteful”, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leed, German Leid “sorrow”



loathe verb

  • feel intense dislike or disgust for

“I don’t just hate my neighbor, I loathe him.”

Origin: Old English lāthian, of Germanic origin



For a start, the two words are different parts of speech. You cannot loath someone; similarly, you cannot be loathe to leave. In addition, they’re pronounced differently: loathe is pronounced like the “th” in “then”, with vibration of the vocal cords, whereas loath is pronounced like the “th” in “youth”, with no vibration.

So there you have it. Two different words, with different meanings, both fun to use. Impress your friends with your newfound knowledge! Or annoy them by correcting them, that works too.




Pronunciation source

Edited 8/6/14 14:08 – thanks Kelly!


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