Lath vs. Lathe: What’s the Difference?

As with any modern language, English has many words that are differentiated by only a single character. Writers need to be careful to use these words correctly, since even an innocent typo can completely change the meaning of the sentence.

Two such words, lath and lathe, are related in that they are both used in the context of wood products. However, one is a machine, and the other is a building material. If you accidentally used the wrong word, you would probably confuse your audience.

If you aren’t sure whether you should use lathe or lath in your writing, you should consider the topic of your sentence. This article will shed light on the meaning of these two similar words to aid you in this endeavor.

What is the Difference Between Lath and Lathe?

In this article, I will compare lath vs. lathe. I will use each word in a sentence to demonstrate its proper context.

Plus, I will reveal a useful memory trick that will help you remember whether to use lath or lathe in your own writing.

When to Use Lath

Definition of lathe definition of lath definitionWhat does lath mean? A lath is a thin strip of wood, usually used in building construction in flooring or certain kinds of ceilings. In a sentence, the word lath functions as a noun.

For example,

  • The foremen asked his workers if they had enough lath to complete the job.
  • Clinton jabbed his pool cue through the ceiling tiles, exposing the lath above.
  • The set — with visible pipes and studs and lath and rafters — seeks, in Mr. Zinn’s words, to suggest “the nervous system under the skin of the architecture.” –The New York Times

When to Use Lathe

Define lathe and define lathWhat does lathe mean? Lathe is also a noun. A lathe is a type of tool used in woodworking and metalworking. It is a machine which rotates a piece of wood, metal or other material on a spindle in such a way that it spins against a cutting surface, which shapes the material into a round, usually somewhat cylindrical form.

For example,

  • Angela tried to turn the wood on the lathe, but she ran it too fast and the piece flew off the spindle and smashed into the wall.
  • Robert bought a lathe on eBay for $50, but it didn’t work.
  • Smeding bought a new lathe at the Chicago show for $200,000 to replace two aging machines at his plant. –The Wall Street Journal

Trick to Remember the Difference

lath versus latheHere’s a helpful trick to remember lathe vs. lath.

  • Both lath and lathe are nouns.
  • Lath refers to thin strips of wood.
  • Lathe is a spinning machine that carves wood, metal, or other materials.

You can remember that lathe is a spinning machine since a lathe has a spindle, and both spindle and lathe end with the letter E.


Is it lath or lathe? While both of these words are wood related, they are quite different from each other.

  • A lath is a thin slat of wood used in construction.
  • A lathe is a machine that carves wood into round shapes.

Even though both of these words are related to wood, they are not interchangeable.

If you remember that a lathe has a spindle that turns, and that lathe and spindle each end with the letter E, you can always be sure to reserve lathe for this and similar contexts.

Remember, you always have the option to check this site any time you have a question on word usage or other language issues.