Waste vs. Waist: What’s the Difference?

Like many homophones in English, waste and waist are frequently misused, in many cases leading to unfortunate and embarrassing blunders.

One of these words refers to a part of the human body, while the other deals with unwanted or excess material. Read on to find out which is which, and whether you use waste or waist in a given context.

What is the Difference Between Waste and Waist?

In this article, I will compare waste vs. waist. I will use each word in a sentence example to illustrate the proper context. Then, at the end, I will show you a helpful trick to use in choosing waist or waste for your writing.

When to Use Waste

Waste versus waistWhat does waste mean? Waste can fulfill many grammatical functions. It is sometimes a noun, sometimes an adjective, and sometimes a verb.

As a noun, waste means excess material.

  • Pulling staples from documents which should not have been stapled is a waste of my time.
  • Chefs and owners of restaurants know that reducing waste to a minimum is the key to keeping food costs in line, which is another, practical reason to eat what we have on-hand before we toss it out: not wasting saves money. –The Dallas Morning News

As an adjective, waste describes the quality of excessiveness in such material.

  • Waste materials should be properly labeled for disposal.

As a verb, waste means to throw away something that is still useful.

  • You waste aluminum when you send drink cans to the landfill instead of the recycling center.

As you can see, waste has many grammatical functions within the sentence.

When to Use Waist

Definition of waist definition of waste definitionWhat does waist mean? Waist is a noun that describes the middle of something, especially the area of the human body between the hips and ribcage.

  • This new belt doesn’t fit around my waist.
  • The couple put their arms around each other’s waist.
  • Repetitive surgery has left multiple scars all along my waist.
  • There was a proposal presented to the UIL at the June Legislative Council meeting to eliminate any block below the waist. That would drastically change football. –The Houston Chronicle

Waist is never a verb. It is also not an adjective—in situations where waist describes another noun, it is more properly combined with the noun to form a compound word, e.g., waistline or waistband.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define waste and define waist Here is a helpful trick to remember waist vs. waste in your writing.

In sentences where the word functions as a verb or an adjective, waste is correct. Waist is not used in these ways.

As nouns, waste and waist are easy to differentiate. Notice the I in waist. Assuming you are a person with both a ribcage and hips, you have a waist. By repeating the phrase “I have a waist” to yourself, you will remember that waist refers to a part of the body, whereas waste refers to excess material, both of which contain the letter E.

If you feel that you have a bit of excess material around your waist, you should consult a dietician and/or a personal trainer. Unfortunately, that is outside the purview of this article.


Is it waste or waist? Waste can be many parts of speech, but in all situations it deals with excess material. Waist is a noun that refers to a part of the human body.

  • Waste is excess material.
  • Waist is a part of the human body.

To remember to use waist to describe a part of the human body, consider the phrase “I have a waist.” Since I and waist are both spelled with an I, it is easy to remember contexts in which it is appropriate to use waist.

If you are still having trouble, you can check this article to give yourself a quick reminder.