English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The following sentence I read from Huff Post: "Why Egypt Matters: The Implications Of The Protests" gets me quite confused. I've made the key problem boldface. Hope someone can explain to me the position of the Obama administration and what the boldface part means.

The Obama administration -- from Joe Biden, who refused to call Mubarak a dictator, to Obama himself, who emphasized Egypt's role as an ally -- has been loathe to fully distance itself from Mubarak, and finds itself in a difficult position, reports theAtlantic.

The original link of the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/29/why-egypt-matters_n_815863.html#s232358&title=Strong_US_Ally

share|improve this question

Omitting the phrase set off in em dashes, the sentence becomes:

The Obama administration has been loathe to fully distance itself from Mubarak.

It uses loathe in this sense:

loath, or loth; also loathe, adj. : characterized by unwillingness to do something contrary to one's tastes, likes, sympathies, or ways of thinking

It means that the Obama administration has been unwilling to separate itself and U.S. interests from former Egyptian President Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally.

Note that while loath (or, as Tim Lymington notes, loth) is likely the more common form to use in this context, you can make the case for loathe as well:

loathe, tr. v. : to feel strong aversion for : have extreme disgust at

In this sense, the Obama administration would be averse to breaking ties with Mubarak.

share|improve this answer
In British English, I think loth is commoner, and loathe is not used precisely because of ambiguity (also, the pronunciation would be different.) – TimLymington Jul 10 '12 at 11:18
@TimLymington Oddly, the British edition of Macmillan doesn't list loth as alternative to loath. The pronunciations it lists do differ between British (/ləʊθ/) and American (/loʊθ/), however. – Gnawme Jul 10 '12 at 15:41
I've never seen the spelling loathe for the adjectival form -- and it's typically pronounced with the hard th (like "thick"). I've never seen loth at all. – Malvolio Jul 10 '12 at 15:47
@Malvolio Although I wouldn't use it myself, M-W Unabridged lists loathe as an acceptable alternate spelling for the adjectival form of loath. I've seen loth, but I'm not sure if it was in a contemporary work. – Gnawme Jul 10 '12 at 16:00
I agree with Malvolio, I have only ever seen 'loath' - sometimes one variant carries the torch whilst the rest fall by the wayside. And the th is certainly unvoiced as in 'thick'. – Barry Brown Jul 10 '12 at 16:05

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.