Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A foam formed by soap or detergent agitated in water, as in washing or shaving.
  • n. Froth formed by profuse sweating, as on a horse.
  • n. Informal A condition of anxious or heated discomposure; agitation: The students were in a lather over the proposed restrictions.
  • transitive v. To spread with or as if with lather.
  • transitive v. Informal To give a beating to; whip.
  • intransitive v. To produce lather; foam.
  • intransitive v. To become coated with lather.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To cover with lather.
  • v. To beat or to whip.
  • n. The foam made by rapidly stirring soap and water.
  • n. A state of agitation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Foam or froth made by soap moistened with water.
  • n. Foam from profuse sweating, as of a horse.
  • transitive v. To spread over with lather.
  • intransitive v. To form lather, or a froth like lather; to accumulate foam from profuse sweating, as a horse.
  • transitive v. To beat severely with a thong, strap, or the like; to flog.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Foam, froth, or suds made from soap moistened with water, as by a brush for shaving.
  • n. Foam or froth formed in profuse sweating, as of a horse.
  • To form a foam or suds, as soap and water; become froth or frothy matter.
  • To spread lather on or over; apply lather to, as the face in shaving.
  • To flog; leather.
  • n. A work-man who puts up laths for plaster-work.
  • n. A dialectal variant of ladder.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. rub soap all over, usually with the purpose of cleaning
  • n. a workman who puts up laths
  • n. the foam resulting from excessive sweating (as on a horse)
  • n. the froth produced by soaps or detergents
  • v. form a lather
  • v. exude sweat or lather
  • v. beat severely with a whip or rod
  • n. agitation resulting from active worry

Etymologies

Probably from Middle English latheren, to wash or soak clothes, from Old English lēthran, to cover with lather; see leu(ə)- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Frm Middle English *lethren, from Old English lēþrian, lȳþrian, *līeþrian (“to anoint, smear, lather”), from Old English lēaþor ("a kind of niter used for soap, soda"). See above. (Wiktionary)
From Middle English lather, from Old English lēaþor ("a kind of niter used for soap, soda"), from Proto-Germanic *lauþran (“that which is used for washing, soap”), from Proto-Indo-European *lowʰ₃-tro- (“that which is used for washing”), from Proto-Indo-European *lawe-, *lewʰ₃-, *lowʰ₃- (“to wash, bathe”). Cognate with Swedish lödder ("lather, foam, froth, soap"), Icelandic löður ("foam, froth, a kind of niter used for soap"), Old Irish lóathar ("wash-basin"), Ancient Greek λουτρόν (loutrón, "a bath, wash-room"), Latin lavō ("wash"), Albanian laj ("I wash"), Ancient Greek λούω (loúō). More at lye. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Since my guess is that you are in lather about this because you view ECB's article as an attack! on!

    Subtexts « PubliCola

  • The lather is dense, holds up and my skin felt baby soft when I was all toweled off.

    Potato Soap!?!

  • "Your lather is getting cold," Billy Louise said evenly.

    The Ranch at the Wolverine

  • She was in lather-sweat of fear, and stood trembling pitiably.

    Planchette

  • Pierre L – getting myself into a lather is A Good Thing, but something might have been lost in translation there

    glue

  • As the latter process of removing the lather is the one universally adopted, the operation of washing with soap and hard water is analogous to that used by the dyer and calico printer for fixing pigments in calico, woolen, or silk tissues.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 392, July 7, 1883

  • I was wrong, I still massaged it into rich lather, which is suspicious.

    Epinions Recent Content for Home

  • My lather was a merchant* who, from the nature of his employment, was obliged to make repeated voyages: andj as he had neither leifure nor inclination to un«» dertake my education himfclf, he held it beft PEREGRINUS PROTEUS.

    Private history of Peregrinus Proteus, the philosopher

  • NOt to mention that calling it tasteless and offensive doesn't seem to qualify as being in a "lather" ...

    Election Central Morning Roundup

  • “We do spoil him so,” said Lady Clavering to Mrs. Pendennis, finally gazing at the cherub, whose hands and face were now frothed over with the species of lather which is inserted in the confection called meringues a la creme.

    The History of Pendennis

Comments

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  • There are three pronunciations of banal, but only one definition. It's just that nobody can agree on the "right" way to say it... is it "BAY null," "buh NAHL" or "buh NAWL?"

    October 5, 2007

  • (rhymes with "hath fur") person who applies lath, e.g. to a wall
    (rhymes with "bathe her") person who operates a lathe
    (rhymes with "gather") foam

    BTW, does anyone know any other spellings that have three or more different pronunciations?

    September 30, 2007

  • Why do people get into such a lather over words like ain't?

    January 14, 2007