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The Written Word April 2009

Lose or Loose – What's the Difference?



Do you confuse “lose” and “loose” in your writing?  There’s only one difference when you see them in print – that extra “o” belonging to loose.


LOOSE comes from Old Norse and means “not confined or restrained; not tight or compact; not firmly fastened; unchaste and immoral."


The verb "to loose" (meaning to set free) is from the thirteenth century and rarely seen today.  Some examples of it would be:  Leave, or I'll loose the dogs on you or She loosed her long hair from its binding.


To LOSE (a verb) comes from Old English, and means to become unable to find; to have something taken away by accident, death or removal; to fail to keep (as in to lose one's temper).”


Examples of Modern Usage:


I know I'm losing weight because my pants are loose.

Can you tighten this loose screw?


I hate to gamble because I always lose.

Here's your lunch money.  Don't lose it!


Loose lips sink ships.


Why not try?  You have nothing to lose.


The calf got loose when it broke its chain.


When you lose something, it's lost.


That coat must be three sizes too big for you.  It's very loose.

Remember: Like lost, to which it is related, lose has only one 'o'.



References:  Webster's New Word Dictionary/Thesaurus