Bath or Bathe – What’s the Difference?

The differences between American and British English are many and varied. Sometimes, the same word will be spelled differently depending on the region, or words may mean different things entirely.

Such is the case with bath and bathe. Both of these words can function as a verb, but that verb will have different connotations to different people. Continue reading to find out about these differences.

What is the Difference Between Bath and Bathe?

In this article, I will compare bath vs. bathe. I will use each of these words in an example sentence. Plus, I will give you a helpful memory tool to use to help yourself remember whether to use bath or bathe in your own writing.

When to Use Bath

bath versus batheWhat does bath mean? Bath is a noun that refers to either a large container full of liquid or the process of washing oneself in such a container.

Here are some example sentences,

  • I would love to go cavorting about the countryside with you, but I am going to go home and take a bath instead.
  • “Darling, go upstairs and run a bath for me,” said the pampered socialite.
  • You should never use an electric hairdryer while taking a bath.
  • Behind that Stradivarius je ne sais quoi, the authors of the new paper suggested, was a bath: the lost art of giving violin and cello wood an extended chemical soak. –The Washington Post

In British English, however, bath also acts as a verb, meaning to wash oneself in a container of water. The below sentences are examples.

  • Genevieve baths in rose water every evening with a glass of red wine.
  • Are you going to bath before we leave, or will I need to explain to everyone why my husband smells like a wild animal?

When to Use Bathe

Definition of bathe definition of bath definitionWhat does bathe mean? Bathe is a verb. In American English, it has the same meaning of the verb sense of bath. In British English, however, it sometimes means to go swimming, especially in the sea. In both British and American English, it could also mean to pour liquid over something.

Here are a few examples:,

  • While on holiday in Greece, the couple bathed in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • “I’m concerned that the children do not bathe often enough,” said the school nurse.
  • Kenneth bathed his wounds in alcohol, to prevent infection.
  • The employees inside were courteous, but would not let us use the rest room sinks to bathe. –The Wall Street Journal

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define bathe and define bathHere is a helpful trick to remember bathe vs. bath.

If the word you are using is a noun, then it should always be spelled bath. Only bath is a noun.

If you are looking for a verb, the decision is not as easy, and will depend on your intended audience.

If you are referring to the act of dousing something in liquid, choose bathe for both American and British readers.

  • I bathed the wound in clean water.

For the act of washing in a tub of soapy water, use bathe for American audiences, and bath for British audiences.

  • I need to bathe myself. (American English)
  • I need to bath myself. (British English)

For British audiences, bathe refers to swimming in the sea.

Summary

Is it bath or bathe? Bath and bathe are simple words with a complicated network of meanings. These meanings are rooted in differences in vocabulary between American and British English.

In American and British English, a bath is a tub of water. In British English, it can also refer to washing in such a tub.

  • In American, people bathe themselves.
  • In England, people bath themselves.

In American English, bathe means to take a bath. In British English, bathe means to swim in the sea. In both language communities, the verb means to douse something in liquid, usually for cleaning purposes.

Since the words bathe, sea, and England all contain the letter E, you can use the phrase bathe in the sea in England to remember this usage case for bathe.

These words can be confusing, so be sure to check this article any time you need a refresher.

[i]
[i]