Loose or Lose?

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
What is the difference between loose and lose?

Loose means not tight or free from constraint (e.g., These trousers are loose.)

To lose means:
  • To fail to keep (e.g., I will lose weight but also my hair.)
  • To fail to win (e.g., I'm expected to lose this match.)
  • To fail to make money (e.g., I will lose a fortune.)

Loose or Lose?

There is often confusion over the words loose and lose. This is due to the lack of consistency in pronouncing words that end oose and ose.

For example, loose (LOOSS) rhymes with noose (NOOSS) but not choose (CHOOZ).


The word lose rhymes with snooze. It has the following meaning:
Fail to keep (either physically or in an abstract sense), to misplace, fail to make money in a business:
  • If I lose my glasses once more this week, I am going to glue them to my head.
  • Terry had already lost one family member to the cult.  He did not want to lose another.
  • The surveillance team is likely to lose the target when he enters the park.
  • "Here, geezer, if you don't shift those clock radios, I'll lose 300 sovs."
  • (UK slang: "shift" = sell / "sovs" = sovereigns = pounds)

Fail to win:
  • Back in 2002, our pub landlord bet £10,000 on Brazil to lose against Germany in the World Cup final.
  • If you do not train during the week, you will lose on Saturday.


Loose, which rhymes with moose, is an adjective meaning not tight, not dense, or free from constraint. Less commonly, it can be used as a verb meaning to unleash (e.g., to loose plagues upon humanity).

  • Watch your footing on this loose gravel.
  • (not dense / not compact)
  • Travelers are advised to wear a lightweight shirt that is lose fitting. This is important to allow air circulation.
  • (should be loose fitting)
  • There is a dangerous dog loose on the street.
  • (free from constraint)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are adjectives? What are verbs? List of easily confused words