Lite vs. Light: What’s the Difference?

Many words in English have multiple spellings. Sometimes these spellings are interchangeable, but often, they denote completely different meanings.

Lite and light are two such words. They sound the same but are spelled differently, making them homophones.

Read on to find out what each means, and when to use lite and light.

What’s the Difference Between Lite and Light?

This article will compare lite vs. light, including examples for each. Additionally, it will outline an easy trick that you can use to remember whether lite or light is the appropriate word to use for your sentence.

When to Use Lite

lite versus light What does lite mean? Lite has existed for several centuries. In contemporary English, however, it usually shares the lower calorie or sugar version of something else sense with light. It is primarily an adjective.

For example,

  • Jennifer ordered lite mayonnaise on her sandwich.
  • Adriana dumped Sten when he refused to drink lite beer to lose weight.

Lite can also be used as part of a brand name, where it often plays the part of an adjective, but directly follows a noun. This is an unusual construction in English, but it has become a prominent marketing convention.

For example,

  • PCalc Lite is the free version of a powerful scientific calculator app for smartphones.
  • Approaching a concession stand at Nationals Park this season and asking for a Miller Lite is like walking into the Nationals team store and asking to be directed to the section of Mets gear. –The Washington Post

It can also be used as an insult, to denote a poor quality knockoff of a superior product or other concept, like in this sentence:

  • The Foo Fighters debut album is just Nirvana-lite.

Lite is never used as a noun in modern English, and is not interchangeable with light in any other sense as an adjective.

When to Use Light

Definition of light definition and definition of lite definitionWhat does light mean? Light can be a noun, or an adjective.

As a noun, light is the particle or wave that allows humans to see and plants to grow. The sun emanates light, as do light bulbs, lightning bugs, and things that are on fire. A light can also be a fixture which emanates light.

For example,

  • Light poured in through the open window.
  • The light from the candle allowed Anne to write in her diary.
  • Abernathy turned off the light, and plunged the room into darkness.

As an adjective, light is something that is not heavy, burdensome, or somber. A knapsack could be light, as could a topic of conversation, or a piece of music.

For example,

  • The way is long, but the burden is light.
  • The couple in the diner engaged in light small talk.
  • The orchestra conductor passed over Orff in favor of lighter fare.
  • While higher than the prior July, the adjusted sales pace has leveled off compared with the sizable year-over-year increases from 2015’s final six months, which drove the U.S. light-vehicle market last year to its first record in a decade and a half. –The Wall Street Journal

Light can also describe a low calorie or low sugar version of something else, especially in a product name.

For example,

  • Marjorie ordered light dressing on her Caesar salad.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define light and define liteHere is a helpful trick to remember light vs. lite.

If the word you’re seeking is a noun, light is your only choice. Lite is never a noun.

If you’re describing something that is low fat, low calorie, or low sugar, you can use lite, especially if it’s part of a brand name. This is easy to remember, since lite has fewer letters than light, and is thus the “lite” version.

Summary

Is it light or lite? These two spellings are sometimes used interchangeably, but other times they mean completely different things.

  • Light can be a noun, where it refers to the wave or particle that enables vision and photosynthesis, or an adjective, where it means not heavy or not somber.
  • Lite is usually an adjective or part of a brand name, and is usually used to describe a low calorie or low fat version of a different product.

Since lite has one fewer letter than light, it is in a sense the “lite” version. This trick should make it easy to keep these two words straight.

If you still need help choosing light or lite for your writing, feel free to reread this article.