\ ˈlāv How to pronounce lave (audio) \

Definition of lave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

chiefly dialectal
: something that is left : residue


laved; laving

Definition of lave (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : wash, bathe
b : to flow along or against
2 : pour

intransitive verb

archaic : to wash oneself : bathe

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Synonyms for lave

Synonyms: Verb

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Did You Know?


Lave is a simple, monosyllabic word that magically makes the mundane act of washing poetic. Shakespeare used it in The Taming of the Shrew, when Gremio assured the father of his beloved Bianca that she would have "basins and ewers to lave her dainty hands." And in Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, Nell "laved her hands and face, and cooled her feet before setting forth to walk again." The poetry of "lave" is also heard when describing water washing against the shore, as in our example sentence, or even the pouring of water: "He … laved a few cool drops upon his brow" (John Lockhart, Reginald Dalton). Before washing our hands of "lave," we'll tell you its etymology: it, as well as "lavatory," comes from Latin lavare, meaning "to wash."

Examples of lave in a Sentence

Verb the cold water from the stream gently laved her burned fingers
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb To Eastward San Diego’s heights Stretch downward to the bay Which coyly laves her with the waves Wherein the dolphins play. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: L. Frank Baum at Coronado," 16 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lave.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of lave


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for lave


Middle English (northern dialect), from Old English lāf; akin to Old English belīfan to remain — more at leave


Middle English, from Old English lafian, from Latin lavare

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Time Traveler for lave

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The first known use of lave was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Lave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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