Word Confusion: Borrow vs Lend vs Loan

Posted November 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 19 August 2017

Polonius: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be…
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
– Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

I borrowed more trouble than I bargained for in exploring the word confusion that is borrow vs. lend vs. loan. So, lend me your ears as I expound upon this confusion and loan me a moment of your time.

And oh, brother. It just goes to show how flexible language is as words, their usage, their spellings, and more goes in and out of fashion, borrowing from other cultures while loaning words of its own to yet other cultures.

My father-in-law and I used to get into discussions about words, words that were common during Shakespeare’s day that American still use but that had been forgotten by the English. Words that sailed back and forth across the ocean, changing their spellings.

It’s a fascinating conundrum for those who adore words, and frustrating for writers, lol, for loving words as a single entity is not the same as loving to use words.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Borrow Lend Loan
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: borrow, lend, and loan

Emma” by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I suspect the ladies will borrow at least one of those umbrellas!


The image is set on a plain white background with an oversized garden fork with a miniature scene resting on the tines, depicting volunteers harvesting and working in a field. In the background is a ploughed field with clear blue sky above in which two butterflies flutter.

“Lend a Hand on the Land at a Farming Holiday Camp Art” by Eileen Evans is in the public domain and was sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Chromoworks Ltd in London was the printer with Her Majesty’s Stationery Office as the publisher, via Wikimedia Commons


A neon sign advertising pay day loans

“Pay Day Loan Shop Window” is Gregory F. Maxwell’s own work (PGP:0xB0413BFA) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: borrows
Past tense or past participle: borrowed
Gerund or present participle: borrowing

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: lends
Past tense or past participle: lent
Gerund or present participle: lending

Noun 1, 2;
Verb 1, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: loans
Past tense or past participle: loaned
Gerund or present participle: loaning

You borrow FROM


Verb, intransitive:
To take or obtain something from someone

[Nautical] To sail close to the wind

  • Luff

[Nautical] To sail close to the shore.

[Golf] To putt on other than a direct line from the lie of the ball to the hole, to compensate for the incline or roll of the green

Verb, transitive:
To take or obtain with the promise to return the same or an equivalent

To use, appropriate, or introduce from another source or from a foreign source

[Arithmetic; in subtraction] To take from one denomination and add to the next lower

You lend objects TO


Verb, intransitive:
Allow a person or organization the use of a sum of money under an agreement to pay it back later, typically with interest

  • To make a loan

Verb, transitive:
To grant to someone the use of something on the understanding that it shall be returned

  • Allow a person or organization the use of a sum of money under an agreement to pay it back later, typically with interest

Contribute or add (something, especially a quality) to

[Lend oneself to] Accommodate or adapt oneself to

[Lend itself to; of a thing] Be suitable for

You lend money (if a verb) TO


Noun:
The act of lending 1

  • A grant of the temporary use of something

Something lent or furnished on condition of being returned, especially a sum of money lent at interest

Short for loanword

The temporary duty of a person transferred to another job for a limited time

[Scottish; usually in place names] A lane or narrow path, especially one leading to open ground 2

  • Secondary road
  • A country lane
  • An uncultivated plot of farmland, usually used for milking cows

Verb, intransitive:
To make a loan or loans

  • Lend

Verb, transitive:
To make a loan of

To give money on condition that it is returned and that interest is paid for its temporary use

  • Lend

To lend (money) at interest

Borrow (a sum of money or item of property)

Examples:
Verb, intransitive:
Don’t borrow unless you intend to repay.

These gloves, another borrow from the Laser class, have an astonishing “grippiness” to them (Sail Nut).

Verb, transitive:
Our neighbor borrowed my lawn mower.

to borrow an idea from the opposition

to borrow a word from French

Verb, intransitive:
The bank lends only to its current customers.

Verb, transitive:
to lend one’s aid to a cause

The building should lend itself to inexpensive remodeling.

Distance lends enchantment to the view.

Hey, can you lend me a hand with this?

Stewart asked me to lend him my car.

We would lend the pictures to each museum in turn.

No one would lend him the money.

The smile lent his face a boyish charm.

John stiffly lent himself to her enthusiastic embraces.

Bay windows lend themselves to blinds.

Noun:
George gave me the loan of a book.

We got a loan for the house.

We can loan you Simmons from accounting.

Borrowers can take out a loan for $84,000 at ten percent interest.

She offered to buy him dinner in return for the loan of the car.

Who’s the loan holder?

Just follow down Whitehouse Loan. You can’t miss it.

Bring those cows in from the loan.

Verb, intransitive:
He gave me a loan for a car.

I have over fifteen books on loan from the library.

It’s on loan.

Verb, transitive:
Will you loan me your umbrella?

Paul loaned Jimmi the money to buy a guitar.

Jenny loaned George $50.
Will you loan me your screwdriver?

The bank can loan him the money at five-percent interest.

The word processor was loaned to us by the theater.

He knew Rob would not loan him money.

Mary Ellen loaned me her bike for the weekend.

Nearby villages loaned clothing and other supplies to the flood-ravaged town.

Derivatives:
Adjective: borrowable, nonborrowed
Noun: borrower, nonborrower
Verb: overborrow
Adjective: lendable
Noun: lender, lending
Verb: interlend, interlent, interlending, overlend, overlent, overlending, relend, relent, relending
Adjective: loanable, unloaning
Noun: loanee, loaner, loaning, unloaned
History of the Word:
First known use: before 900

Middle English borowen, Old English borgian meaning to borrow, lend, and derivative of and akin to the Dutch borg meaning a pledge also the Dutch borgen meaning to charge, give credit, German Borg meaning credit, borgen meaning to take on credit.

First known use: before 900

Middle English lenden, a variant — and originally the past tense — of lenen, Old English lǣnan (related to Dutch lenen, German lehnen, Old Norse lāna), derivative of lǣn meaning loan.

It’s related to Lehnen, Old Norse lān.

1 First known use: 1150-1200

Middle English lone, lane (noun), Old English lān from the Old Norse lān; replacing its cognate, Old English lǣn meaning loan, grant, relates to Dutch leen meaning loan, German Lehen meaning fief.
2First known use: 1325-75

Middle English, Old English lone.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Would you like to borrow my umbrella, Sonic? by scifiguy9000, via DeviantArt.


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