Leant or Leaned – What’s the Difference?

As languages evolve, some words fall out of style. They are usually replaced, sometimes by a different version of the same word, or sometimes by a new word altogether. This is how languages change to fit the needs of the people who use them.

Leant and leaned are old words—their root verb, lean, has origins in Latin and was first recorded in its modern form in the late 18th century. Today, most writers use leaned, but is there ever a situation to use leant?

Continue reading to learn more.

What is the Difference Between Leant and Leaned?

In this article, I will compare leant vs. leaned, and use each word in several example sentences.

I will also discuss a memory tool that you can use to help you decide whether leaned or leant is the better word to choose for your own writing.

When to Use Leaned

Define leaned and define leantWhat does leaned mean? Leaned is a verb. It is the past tense conjugation of the verb lean, which means to prop up against something or to be crooked to one side.

Lean can be used either with or without an object, like in these sentences,

  • The sheriff chewed straw as he leaned against the fencepost, waiting for the farmhands to come home.
  • Walker sat down at the table and leaned his rifle against a wall.
  • The barn leaned badly to the south, and looked as if it were about to collapse at any second.
  • Players leaned into the machines, their fingers fast-twitching on the flipper buttons, punctuating this with emphatic body English and jostling the machine to coax the ball in different directions. –The New York Times

When to Use Leant

What does leant mean? Leant is another version of the same word. Leant is an outdated form that fell out of favor at some point before 1700, and has been used only rarely ever since.

Here is a chart that shows the usage frequencies of leant vs. leaned:

leant versus leaned

As you can see from the above chart, the distribution of these two words is not even close. Leaned is clearly the standardized word in Modern English. Bryan Garner, of Garner’s Modern American Usage, estimates the use to be 20:1 of leaned vs. leant.

Lent is relatively more common in British English than in American English, and you can still find it in British publications every now and then.

  • Instead we leant in and ordered ourselves a fairly classic eastern Mediterranean dinner: meze, grills, sweet pastries and lashings of slightly gruff red wine. –The Telegraph

Despite its occasional use in British English, however, British authors still heavily favor leaned (see below).

Definition of leaned definition and definition of leant definition

Trick to Remember the Difference

There isn’t much to remember with leaned vs. leant. You should use leaned in all modern applications. Leant has not seen common use in multiple centuries, and leaned is standard in all English-speaking communities.

If you were writing period fiction, and wanted to capture the way some speakers of English actually talked in a bygone era, leant might be a good tool to use. It should be avoided in other situations though.

Leant shares its T with the word antique. Leant, like other antiques, is very old. You can use this clue as a reminder that leant is outdated and should be avoided.

Summary

Is it leant or leaned? Leant and leaned are two spelling variants of the same word, which is a past tense of the verb lean. Lean means to be crooked to one side or to prop against something.

  • Leaned is the modern spelling of the word.
  • Leant is an outdated spelling.

Since leant and antique are both spelled with the letter T, you can link these words together in your mind to remember that leant is too old for regular use.

In summary, leaned is the modern form of this word while leant is antiquated.