Word Confusion: Lath vs Lathe vs Lave

Posted October 1, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 5 September 2017

Nope, I am not going to get excited about someone “lathing fire across my breasts”. It’s gonna hurt when he nails the fire down.

Lave is a common enough word used in romance novels, and while it doesn’t float my boat, it’s a darn sight better choice than someone lathing kisses across my stomach…ouch…

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. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Lath Lathe Lave
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: lath, lave

A wall of lath strips with the plaster oozing between

“Lath” uploaded by Asmithmd1 is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Laths seen from the back with plaster visible between them.

An example of turning a length of wood on a lathe

“Wheelwright from Eikamp, Odenthal” is in Bergisches Museum of Mining, Crafts and Trades and is Frank Vincentz’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Carving a spoke on a lathe.

Young man in bold pink shirt and rolled up trousers splashing water onto himself.

“Young Man Washing” by nevillekingston is under the CC0-1.0 license, via VisualHunt

A gentle lave.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: laths
Past tense or past participle: lathed
Gerund or present participle: lathing

Noun 1; Verb, transitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: lathes
Past tense or past participle: lathed
Gerund or present participle: lathing

Noun, uncountable 3
Verb, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun: lave
Third person present verb: laves
Past tense or past participle: laved
Gerund or present participle: laving

A thin flat strip of wood, especially one of a series forming a foundation for the plaster of a wall, the tiles of a roof, or made into a trellis or fence

  • [Collective] Laths as a building material, especially as a foundation for supporting plaster

Verb, transitive:
Cover a wall or ceiling with laths

A machine for shaping wood, metal, or other material by means of a rotating drive that turns the piece being worked on against changeable cutting tools

Verb, transitive:
Shape with a lathe

Noun, uncountable:
[Archaic & mostly dialect] Something that is left

  • The remainder
  • The rest
  • Remnant
  • Others

Verb, intransitive:
[Archaic] To wash oneself

  • Bathe

Verb, transitive:
[Literary] Wash, bathe

  • [Of water] Wash against or over something
  • Flow along or against


Those laths will have to be replaced unless you want to rip it all down and use drywall.

There’s a broken lath in the west wall.

Verb, transitive:
Mick’s lathing the bathroom this afternoon.

Hank, can you lath the kitchen next week?

Did ya hear about that new lathe George got?

I wonder if Mark will let me use his lathe?

Mary turned the most gorgeous knitting needles on her lathe.

Verb, transitive:
Yep, Tom lathed all the balusters himself.

I got Bob to lathe some great brass handles for my chisels.

Noun, uncountable:
“I love the Lily as the first of flowers
Whose stately stalk so straight up is and stay;
To whom th’ lave ay lowly louts and cowers
As bound so brave a beauty to obey.”

– Alexander Montgomery

Verb, intransitive:
Waves laved and the wind fluttered that afternoon.

Verb, transitive:
She ran cold water in the basin, laving her face and hands.

The sea below laved the shore with small, agitated waves.

He laved her breasts with slow strokes of his tongue.

The cold water from the stream gently laved her burned fingers.

Noun: lavation
History of the Word:
First known use: 13th century

Old English lætt is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch lat, the German Latte or Latta, or the Welsh llath meaning yard.

1 First known use: 1611

Middle English and probably from lath meaning supporting stand OR the Old Danish lad meaning structure or frame. It may be from the Old Norse hlath meaning pile or heap, related to hlatha.

2 First known use: circa 1903

First known use: before 12th century

3 The northern dialect in Middle English lave, laif, lafe meaning remainder, rest, or that which is left from the Old English lāf meaning lave, remainder, or rest and akin to the Old English belīfan meaning to remain.

4 Old English lafian, from Latin lavare meaning to wash and reinforced in Middle English by the Old French laver.

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

Pinterest Photo Credits

Is My Cat Normal? is from a slideshow on WebMD. Lath, Kent is JackyR’s own work under the GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons. Making Chess Pieces by austinevan is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.com.