Confused Words #3: Lose, Loose, Loss

By Maeve Maddox

Written errors in the use of lose, loose, and loss are common.

One error is to write the adjective loose (rhymes with moose) as if it were the verb lose (rhymes with booze).

Incorrect: Don’t loose touch when people leave for a new position.
Correct : Don’t lose touch when people leave for a new position.

In the expression “to lose touch,” lose is a verb with the meaning, “to fail to maintain.”

Incorrect: It can be painful to loose a loved one.
Correct : It can be painful to lose a loved one.

In this context, the verb lose means, “to be deprived of someone dear by death or other separation.”

Incorrect: She says I’m lazy because I can’t loose weight.
Correct : She says I’m lazy because I can’t lose weight.

Here, lose means, “to get rid of.”

This figurative use of lose occurs in several expressions:

to lose one’s head – to become irrational
to lose one’s mind – to be overwhelmed with anxiety
to lose heart – to become fearful or discouraged
to lose one’s nerve – to become timid
to lose sleep over – to worry excessively

Another error is to write the verb lose for loose.

Incorrect: Five Top Terrorists On the Lose Again
Correct : Five Top Terrorists On the Loose Again

Incorrect: Eliminating one set of tools does not eliminate the problem of there being a homicidal maniac on the lose.
Correct : Eliminating one set of tools does not eliminate the problem of there being a homicidal maniac on the loose.

The expression “on the loose” means, “free to wander without restraint.” In this expression, loose is a noun.

Note: There is a verb loose, but it is not much used in ordinary speech. It means, “to release” or “to set free.” The unfamiliarity of this word is evident in the unnecessary let in the often-heard expression “let loose.” For example, many bloggers seem to believe that in the movie Clash of the Titans, (the good one), Zeus told Thetis to “let loose the Kraken.” If Sir Laurence Olivier had used the verb loose, I feel certain he would have used it correctly as “Loose the Kraken.” What he actually said was “Release the Kraken.”

Finally, the noun loss is sometimes incorrectly written as lose:

Incorrect: Words can’t begin to tell you my feelings on the lose of your brothers.
Correct : Words can’t begin to tell you my feelings on the loss of your brothers.

In this context, loss means “privation, the being without someone.”

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4 Responses to “Confused Words #3: Lose, Loose, Loss”

  • Dale A Wood

    Then there are the misspellings “looze” and “loze”, probably inspired by “ooze” and “booze”.
    D.A.W.

  • Roberta B.

    Loser – a popular and current insult with its own hand signal.

  • Dale A Wood

    Laser = light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation could have been
    Loser = light oscillation by stimulated emission of radiation, but then “loser” would have been an ugly word.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A Wood

    Another current misspelling: “lozer”.
    So many people are careless about spelling – and compound words, too.
    D.A.W.

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