from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A foam formed by soap or detergent agitated in water, as in washing or shaving.
  • noun Froth formed by profuse sweating, as on a horse.
  • noun Informal A condition of anxious or heated discomposure; agitation.
  • intransitive verb To spread with or as if with lather.
  • intransitive verb Informal To give a beating to; whip.
  • intransitive verb To produce lather; foam.
  • intransitive verb To become coated with lather.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A work-man who puts up laths for plaster-work.
  • noun Foam, froth, or suds made from soap moistened with water, as by a brush for shaving.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A dialectal variant of ladder.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


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

    January 14, 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

  • 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