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Etymology 1


From Middle English lōth (loath; averse, hateful), from Old English lāð, lāþ (evil; loathsome), or Old Norse leið, leiðr (uncomfortable; tired)[1] from Proto-Germanic *laiþaz (loath; hostile; sad, sorry), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂leyt- (to do something abhorrent or hateful).

The word is cognate with Danish led (disgusting, loathsome; nasty), Dutch leed (sad; (Belgium) angry), French laid (ugly; morally corrupt), Catalan lleig (ugly), Icelandic leiður (annoyed, vexed; sad; (archaic or poetic) annoying, wearisome), Italian laido (filthy, foul; obscene), Old Frisian leed, Old High German leid (Middle High German leit, modern German leid (uncomfortable), Leid (grief, sorrow, woe; affliction, suffering; harm, injury; wrong)), Old Saxon lêð, lēth (evil person or thing), Swedish led (bored; tired; (archaic) disgusting, loathsome; evil).[2]



loath (comparative loather, superlative loathest)

  1. Averse, disinclined; reluctant, unwilling.
    I was loath to return to the office without the Henderson file.
    • 1678, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That which is to Come: [], London: [] Nath[aniel] Ponder [], →OCLC; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress (The Noel Douglas Replicas), London: Noel Douglas, [], 1928, →OCLC, page 166:
      Then ſaid Faint-heart, Deliver thy Purſe; but he making no haſte to do it (for he was loth to loſe his Money,) Miſtrust ran up to him, and thruſting his hand into his Pocket, pull'd out thence a bag of Silver.
    • 1722, [Eliza] Haywood, Love in Excess: Or, The Fatal Enquiry. A Novel. The Third and Last Part, 4th corrected edition, volume III, London: Printed for W[illiam Rufus] Chetwood, J. Woodman, D. Brown, and S. Chapman, →OCLC, page 199:
      Frankville, whoſe only Fault was raſhneſs, grew almoſt wild at the Recital of ſo unexpected a Misfortune, he knew not for a good while what to believe, loath he was to ſuſpect the Count, but loather to ſuſpect Camilla, yet flew into extremities of Rage againſt both, by turns: []
    • 1822, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Peveril of the Peak. [], volume III, Edinburgh: [] Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., →OCLC, page 82:
      "And thereupon I pledge thee," said the young nobleman, "which on any other argument I were loth to do—thinking of Ned as somewhat the cut of a villain."
    • 1868, [John Blaikie], “Schools and Schoolmaster, Churches and Parsons, Universities and Professors”, in The Old Times and the New, London: Chapman and Hall, [], →OCLC, page 58:
      Of all the people in the world our countrymen are the loathest to give away their money without some reasonable quid pro quo; []
    • 1875, Arthur Sullivan (music), W[illiam] S[chwenck] Gilbert (lyrics), Trial by Jury. A Novel and Original Dramatic Cantata, London: Walter Smith, [], →OCLC, page 15:
      If I to wed the girl am loth / A breach 'twill surely be—
    • 1881, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Alas, So Long!”, in Ballads and Sonnets, London: Ellis and White, [], →OCLC, stanza 2, pages 297–298, lines 9–13:
      Ah! dear one, I've been old so long, / It seems that age is loth to part, / Though days and years have never a song, / And, oh! have they still the art / That warmed the pulses of heart to heart?
    • 1905 June 1, A[lberto] Santos-Dumont, “The Pleasures of Ballooning”, in [Henry Chandler Bowen], editor, The Independent, volume LVIII, number 2948, New York, N.Y.: The Independent [], →OCLC, page 1228, column 1:
      When the dawn comes, red and gold and purple one is almost loath to seek the cheery, busy earth again, altho the novelty of landing in who knows what part of Europe affords still another unique pleasure. For many the greatest charm of spherical ballooning lies here.
    • 1909 December 29, Jack London, “The Whale Tooth”, in South Sea Tales, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, published October 1911, →OCLC, page 61:
      The frizzle-headed man-eaters were loath to leave their fleshpots so long as the harvest of human carcases was plentiful. Sometimes, when the harvest was too plentiful, they imposed on the missionaries by letting the word slip out that on such a day there would be a killing and a barbecue.
  2. (obsolete) Angry, hostile.
  3. (obsolete) Loathsome, unpleasant.
Usage notes
  • The spelling loath is about four times as common as loth in Britain, and about fifty times as common in the United States.
  • The word should not be confused with the related verb loathe.
Alternative forms
Derived terms

Etymology 2




loath (third-person singular simple present loaths, present participle loathing, simple past and past participle loathed)

  1. Obsolete spelling of loathe.
    • 1576, George Whetstone, “The Castle of Delight: []”, in The Rocke of Regard, [], London: [] [H. Middleton] for Robert Waley, →OCLC; republished in J[ohn] P[ayne] Collier, editor, The Rocke of Regard, [] (Illustrations of Early English Poetry; vol. 2, no. 2), London: Privately printed, [1867?], →OCLC, page 20:
      To Scriptures read they muſt their leaſure frame, / Then loath they will both luſt and wanton love; []
    • 1736, Andrew Gray, “Sermon VI. Acts xxvi. 18. []”, in Great and Precious Promises: or, Some Sermons Concerning the Promises, and the Right Application thereof. [], Glasgow: Printed by William Duncan, [], →OCLC, page 115:
      [] O Hypocrites! ye hope for Enjoyment of Chriſt, but be perſwaded of it, Chriſt ſhall eternally loath you, and ye ſhall eternally loath Chriſt: []


  1. ^ lōth, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 10 December 2018.
  2. ^ loath, loth, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1903; loath”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.