I'm having difficulty in understanding the differences in usage (and understanding which one is used from pronunciation/context) between "loathe" and "loath" - could anyone help clarify it ?

3 Answers 3


'Loathe' is a verb used to indicate repugnance:

I loathe Brussels sprouts.

'Loath' is an adjective suggesting unwillingness or reluctance:

I am loath to eat my Brussels sprouts.

As for pronunciation, they both rhyme with 'loan' as far as the vowel sound is concerned, but 'loathe' ends with a 'th' sound as in 'the', whereas 'loath' has a 'th' as in 'thing'. This is based on my experience as an Australian English speaker who rarely says either of these words!

  • 1
    +1 -- I also note that "loathe" often draws out the vowel a bit i.e. "loooooooowthe". Apr 7, 2011 at 7:38
  • 1
    Also valid in American English. Oct 12, 2011 at 0:32

There are several pairs of words in English where the verb has a voiced 'th' (/ð/) and the other form has it unvoiced (/θ/).

Usually there is a difference in spelling ("loath"/"loathe"; "wreath"/"wreathe"), but sometimes not ("mouth"/"mouth"). Sometimes the vowel sound changes as well ("breath"/"breathe"; "bath"/"bathe").

In most cases the 'non-verb' is a noun, but in this case "loath" is an adjective. However it is a slightly odd one, in that you can say "I'm nothing loath to ... ": I can't think of any other words that will go in this construction.

"Loath" is also rather rare in modern English.


Loathe is used to express hatred/dislike/disgust whereas loath is used to express unwillingness/reluctant attitude.

  • There is nothing wrong with this answer. Any particular reason why this was downvoted?
    – Uticensis
    Apr 7, 2011 at 15:13
  • While not as detailed as the other answer, this is still a useful answer in a nutshell - I've upvoted you :)
    – TCSGrad
    Apr 7, 2011 at 15:16
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    My problem with this answer is that it makes the two sound like they're the same except for the slightly different meaning. They're not; "loath" is not a verb and "loathe" is not an adjective, so you couldn't just replace one with the other. (Not my downvote, but if it were, that'd be why.)
    – cHao
    May 31, 2012 at 19:50

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