Word Choice: Loath vs. Loathe
  • 2-minute read
  • 11th June 2016

Word Choice: Loath vs. Loathe

Homonyms – words which sound and look alike but differ in meaning – are tricky things. And with only the ‘e’ at the end of ‘loathe’ to distinguish it from ‘loath’, it’s no surprise people make mistakes when using these terms. As such, to help you use them correctly, we’ve prepared this handy guide.

Loath (Unwilling)

‘Loath’ is an adjective meaning ‘unwilling’ or ‘reluctant’. It is almost always used in the phrase ‘loath to’, such as in the following:

The party is tonight, but I’m loath to miss the MasterChef series finale!

Is there a joy truer than watching people make fancy food while shoving a cheap microwave dinner down your gullet?
Is there a joy truer than watching people make fancy food while shoving a cheap microwave dinner down your gullet?

As this sentence shows, ‘loath to’ can be used in place of a word like ‘unwilling’ to indicate that someone is unhappy about doing something.

Loathe (Hate)

‘Loathe’ is a verb meaning ‘to abhor’ or ‘to feel disgust for’. It is commonly used as a synonym for ‘hate’:

I like Gary Mehigan as a TV host, but I loathe Matt Preston.

The noun associated with ‘loathe’ is ‘loathing’, which means ‘a strong dislike’. We could therefore add to the above by saying:

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I have a powerful loathing for Matt Preston.

What Matt Preston has done to deserve being loathed to such an extreme extent, we may never know. But the use of ‘loathing’ here is correct!

He’s probably really nice in real life. [Photo: Eva Rinaldi/Splash News]

Loath or Loathe?

As well as looking similar on paper, ‘loath’ and ‘loathe’ both have negative connotations (e.g. we might be ‘loath to’ do something we ‘loathe’ doing). Yet each word has a distinct use, so try not to mix them:

  • Loath means to be unwilling. It is typically used in the phrase ‘loath to’.
  • Loathe means to hate or feel disgust for someone.

A key point of difference to remember is that ‘loath’ is an adjective while ‘loathe’ is a verb. As such, if you need a word that describes the action of hating or disliking something it will always be ‘loathe’ with an ‘e’ at the end.

And if you need any extra help with your word choice in a document, why not try our editing and proofreading services for free today?


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