variants or less commonly loth or loathe
: unwilling to do something contrary to one's ways of thinking : reluctant
She was loath to admit her mistakes.
loathness noun

Did you know?

Many usage commentators point out that the spelling of loath, the adjective, is distinct from loathe, the verb that means "to dislike greatly." Merriam-Webster dictionaries do record loathe (along with loth) as a variant spelling for the adjective, but at the same time indicate that the loath spelling is the most common one. The adjective and the verb both hark back to Old English, and the "e" ending in each has come and gone over the centuries—but if you want to avoid the ire of those who like to keep the language tidy, stick with loath for the adjective and loathe for the verb.

Choose the Right Synonym for loath

disinclined, hesitant, reluctant, loath, averse mean lacking the will or desire to do something indicated.

disinclined implies lack of taste for or inclination.

disinclined to move again
disinclined for reading

hesitant implies a holding back especially through fear or uncertainty.

hesitant about asking for a date

reluctant implies a holding back through unwillingness.

a reluctant witness

loath implies hesitancy because of conflict with one's opinions, predilections, or liking.

seems loath to trust anyone

averse implies a holding back from or avoiding because of distaste or repugnance.

averse to hard work
not averse to an occasional drink

Examples of loath in a Sentence

She was loath to admit her mistakes. I was loath to accept his claim of having climbed Mount Everest.
Recent Examples on the Web But Cal State was loath to give any union more than 5% for this budget year; doing so would have triggered new salary negotiations with some labor groups. Calmatters, The Mercury News, 20 Feb. 2024 Other surveys suggest that being old is seen as a kind of crime: Americans are equally loath to support candidates over the age of eighty and candidates who’ve been charged with a felony. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 18 Feb. 2024 Credit card interest rates are unlikely to fall significantly in the months to come, experts say, because banks will be loath to reduce them. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 31 Jan. 2024 OpenAI’s leaders were loath to make those decisions unilaterally. TIME, 5 Feb. 2024 Despite the prominent announcements of layoffs at companies like UPS, Google and Microsoft, most employers have been loath to part with workers, worried about being short-staffed if business picks up again. Lydia Depillis, New York Times, 2 Feb. 2024 Of course, students at country-club colleges are loath to rush through a pleasant four-year staycation or to leave their friends behind, and faculty don’t want to have to adjust their schedules, courses, or assignments. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 And even if the two sides do come to some sort of agreement, many Republicans, especially in the House, would be loath to give an election-year win to Mr. Biden on an issue that has given them a powerful line of criticism toward the White House. Erica L. Green, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 But many here are loath to attach themselves to his only living son. Tribune News Service, Hartford Courant, 10 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'loath.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English loth loathsome, from Old English lāth; akin to Old High German leid loathsome, Old Irish lius loathing

First Known Use

12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of loath was in the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near loath

Cite this Entry

“Loath.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants also loth
or loathe
: unwilling to do something : reluctant
seems loath to trust anyone

More from Merriam-Webster on loath

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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