Word Confusion: Loose versus Lose

Posted July 29, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This one drives me out of my mind. I’m almost guaranteed to find this word confusion in every other book I read! What are the editors thinking!?? Just because there’s an extra “o” in loose does not mean that the object is really lost! The two words do not even mean the same thing! Hullo…!

Can you tell it drives me mad?

There isn’t even the excuse that choose and chose have of one simply being the past tense and past participle of the other!

Can you imagine swapping one word for the other?

Babe, loose shirt!

The shirt doesn’t fit tightly.

Babe, lose shirt!

Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Someone wants her to take her shirt off.

I can be loose.

Somebody’s is feeling tight, tense.

I can lose.

He’s either worried he’ll lose whatever this is or someone wants him to lose.

Are these too loose?

Probably a pair of pants she’s trying on.

Are these to lose?

Can I misplace these with no repercussions?

One brain tickler that might help you keep track of which one you want to use — yeah, the loose shirt versus lose shirt sent me off on this tangent — those two Os in loose could be some guy’s eyes getting all bug-eyed at the idea of looking down that girl’s loose shirt. Hey, it’s been a long day, LOL…if you’ve got a better tickler, let me know…please!

You may want to explore this post as well: “Loses versus Losses.

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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Loose Lose
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Sewing Tape Measure” was photographed by Jim Thomas under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

This roll is pretty loose.

Fat man's waist being measured by a nurse

“Béo bung” is Thongtinykhoa’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, yeah, he has got to lose weight.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: looses
Past tense or past participle: loosed
Gerund or present participle: loosing

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: loses
Past tense or past participle: lost
Gerund or present participle: losing

Not firmly or tightly fixed in place

  • Detached or able to be detached
  • Not held or tied together
    • Not packaged or placed in a container
  • [Of a person or animal] Free from confinement
    • Not bound or tethered
  • Not strict or exact
  • Not close or compact in structure
  • [Of feces] Containing excessive liquid:

[Of a garment] Not fitting tightly or closely


  • Physically slack
  • Careless and indiscreet in what is said
  • [Dated] Promiscuous
    • Immoral
  • [Of the ball or puck in a game] In play but not in any player’s possession

Verb, transitive:
Set free

  • Release
  • Untie
  • Unfasten
  • Relax one’s grip
Verb, intransitive:
Fail to win a game or contest

Earn less money than one is spending or has spent

Verb, transitive:
Be deprived of or cease to have or retain something

  • Cause someone to fail to gain or retain something
  • Be deprived of a close relative or friend through their death or as a result of the breaking off of a relationship
  • [Of a pregnant woman] Miscarry a baby or suffer the death of a baby during childbirth
  • [Be lost] Be destroyed or killed, especially through accident or as a result of military action
  • Decrease in body weight
    • Undergo a reduction of a specified amount of weight
  • Waste or fail to take advantage of time or an opportunity
  • [Of a watch or clock] Become slow by a specified amount of time
  • [Lose it; informal] Lose control of one’s temper or emotions

Become unable to find something or someone

  • Cease or become unable to follow the right route
  • Evade or shake off a pursuer
  • [North American; informal] Get rid of an undesirable person or thing
  • [Informal] Cause someone to be unable to follow an argument or explanation
  • [Lose oneself in/be lost in] Be or become deeply absorbed in something

Fail to win a game or contest

  • Cause someone to fail to win a game or contest

Earn less money than one is spending or has spent

Jack has a loose tooth.

Oh, no, the truck’s trailer came loose.

Wear your hair loose.

His pockets were bulging with loose change.

The bull was loose with cattle in the field.

The tethered horses broke loose.

Well, it was kind of a loose interpretation.

A gunny sack uses a loose weave.

It was a loose federation of political and industrial groups.

Many patients report loose bowel movements.

She slipped into a loose T-shirt and shorts.

She swung back into her easy, loose stride.

There is too much loose talk about the situation.

She ran the risk of being called a loose woman.

It’s a loose ball, up for either side to grab.

These pants are too loose.

Oh, no! There’s a serial killer on the loose!

Verb, transitive:
The hounds have been loosed.

The ropes were loosed.

He loosed his grip suddenly.

There are coins loose in his pocket.

Verb, intransitive:
They lost by one vote.

Pete didn’t want to be on the losing side.

He lost heavily on box-office flops.

Verb, transitive:
I’ve lost my appetite.

Linda was very upset about losing her job.

The company may find itself losing customers to cheaper rivals.

You lost me my appointment at the university.

She lost her husband in the fire.

She could lose the baby.

A fishing disaster in which 19 local men were lost took place over five years ago.

She couldn’t eat and began to lose weight.

They lost every chance to score in the first inning.

He’ll lose no time in attacking his opponent’s tax proposals.

I swear this clock loses 10 minutes every day.

In the end I completely lost it — I was screaming at them.

Jamie always loses the car keys.

The clouds came down, and we lost the path.

He came after me waving his revolver, but I easily lost him.

Lose that creep!

Sorry, Tim, you’ve lost me there.

He had been lost in thought.

The Bears lost the final game of the series

That shot lost him the championship.

The paper is losing $500,000 a month.

This project of yours is losing money hand over fist.

Adjective: loose-fitting, loose-footed, loose-jointed, loose-knit, loose-leaf, loose-limbed, looser, loosest, loosey-goosey, overloose
Adverb: loosely, overloosely
Noun: loosener, looseness, overlooseness
Verb, transitive: loosen
Adjective: lose-lose
Noun: loser
Verb, transitive: relose, relost, relosing
Phrasal Verb
lose out
History of the Word:
Middle English loos meaning free from bonds, is from the Old Norse lauss and is of Germanic origin, related to the Dutch and German los. Old English, the before 12th century, from losian, meaning perish, destroy
Become unable to find

Similar to the Old English lēosan, for to lose.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Loose Sign” was photographed by Nigel Gibson, and is under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses and “Sgt. McQuade, White House Policeman, Holding a Lost Child” is by an unknown author and is in the public domain; both are via Wikimedia Commons.