Loath and Loathe

Commonly Confused Words

I Loathe You
In David Slonim's children's book I Loathe You, two monsters (a father and son) express their feelings for each other. (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

The words loath and loathe may look similar, but their meanings and pronunciations are different.

Definitions

Loath (rhymes with both) is an adjective meaning unwilling or reluctant, and it's usually followed by a to-infinitive. (Also spelled loth, though this form is seldom found in contemporary American English.) 

Loathe (rhymes with clothe) is a verb that means to detest or dislike intensely. The -ing form of loathe (usually used as a noun) is loathing.

Examples

  • "The invention of barbed wire in 1873 made it possible for the first time to fence the western, or plains portion, of Texas. . . . Though the day of free grass was about over, many men—long accustomed to believe that the Great Plains could not be used by farmers—were loath to believe or accept the fact. When they saw all the lands going under fence, they seized their wire-cutters and used them in the determination to keep the free range."
    (Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers, 2nd ed. University of Texas Press, 1965)
  • "That was the bitter truth and she was loath to accept it, as a person is loath to accept truths such as death, old age, and incurable disease."
    (Naguib Mahfouz, Rhadopis of Nubia, 1943/2003)
     
  • "We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe."
    (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1919)
     
  • "I'm in favor of shooting old people who complain about the room being too drafty, and I loathe people who find fault with dogfighting."
    (Joan Rivers, I Hate Everyone . . . Starting with Me. Berkley, 2013)
     
  • "He looked at me with a mixture of loathing and bewilderment."
    (Mary Ladd Gavell, "The Rotifer," 1968)
     

Usage Notes

  • Pronunciations
    "The verb to loathe, because it has an e at the end, is pronounced with the 'voiced' th of bathe, breathe, clothe, lathe, seethe, and tithe. The adjective loath has no final e and so should be pronounced with a 'voiceless' th like both, broth, cloth, growth, and quoth. (The alternative spelling loth, common in the 19th century but now old-fashioned, better illustrates the proper pronunciation. . . .

    "For anyone having trouble keeping the two words apart, [Harry] Shaw [in Say It Right! 1972] suggests this sentence as a mnemonic device: "A kind person, Jack was loath to say that he loathed the foreman."
    (Charles Harrington Elster, The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide for the Careful Speaker, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
  • Variants
    "A word on variants: some dictionaries permit grizzly and loathe as acceptable alternatives for grisly and loath, but enough readers would consider these incorrect that writers are advised to stick with the traditional spellings."
    (Anne Stilman, Grammatically Correct: The Essential Guide to Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar, and Pronunciation, 2nd ed. Writer's Digest Books, 2010) 

     

Practice

(a) I _____ people who dress their pets in fancy costumes.

(b) "Often we are _____ to get rid of a particular item because we think it might come in handy 'sometime' or 'somewhere.'"
(Linda Cobb, The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter. Pocket Books, 2002)

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

Answers to Practice Exercises: Loath and Loathe

(a) I loathe people who dress their pets in fancy costumes.

(b)"Often we are loath to get rid of a particular item because we think it might come in handy 'sometime' or 'somewhere.'"
(Linda Cobb, The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter. Pocket Books, 2002)

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Loath and Loathe." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/loath-and-loathe-1689579. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 3). Loath and Loathe. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/loath-and-loathe-1689579 Nordquist, Richard. "Loath and Loathe." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/loath-and-loathe-1689579 (accessed September 24, 2017).