lose vs. loose

What is the difference between lose and loose?

The similarity in spelling between these two words causes many writers to use them interchangeably, even though they have very different meanings and subtly different pronunciations.
Lose (pronounced /luz/, rhyming with snooze) is a verb with a wide variety of definitions. Most commonly, it means “to mislay,” “to fail to win or use,” or “to rid oneself of,” as in:
  • “I always lose my passport when I travel abroad.”
  • “There’s no way we can lose this competition!”
  • “He’s been trying to lose weight for a few years.”
Loose (pronounced /lus/, rhyming with moose) is most often an adjective meaning “not fastened, restrained, taut, or rigid.” For example:
  • “I think the bolts on the undercarriage have come loose.”
  • “There may be a loose wire causing the issue.”
  • “I love these boots, but they feel a little loose.”
While the difference between spelling the word with one O or two is an easy one to mix up (and most readers will be able to understand what you mean based on context), it’s important to use these words correctly, as failing to do so can greatly undermine your readers’ confidence in your writing.

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Remember that when you lose something, you “lose” the second O. You can also keep in mind that loose contains the word loo, which has the same vowel sound and is also spelled with two Os.
Get all volumes of The Farlex Grammar Book in paperback or eBook.
Share Tweet Share

Conversations