verb (used without object)

to form a lather: a soap that lathers well.
to become covered with lather, as a horse.

verb (used with object)

to apply lather to; cover with lather: He lathered his face before shaving.
Informal. to beat or whip.

Origin of lather

before 950; Middle English; Old English lēathor soap; cognate with Old Norse lauthr (Icelandic löthur) lather, foam
Related formslath·er·er, nounun·lath·ered, adjective


[lath-er, lah-ther]


a worker who puts up laths.

Origin of lather

2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for lather

Contemporary Examples of lather

Historical Examples of lather

  • It was a heart-tearing thing to see her run to the point of lather and then keep on.

  • You get up to soothe them and find them in a lather of sweat and scared to a tremble.

  • When Emil alighted at the Shabatas' gate, his horse was in a lather.

    O Pioneers!

    Willa Cather

  • The horse was not winded, but it trembled and reeked with sweat and lather.


    Robert W. Chambers

  • He was borne up the seas; he slid down the seas in a lather of white foam.

British Dictionary definitions for lather



foam or froth formed by the action of soap or a detergent in water
foam formed by other liquid, such as the sweat of a horse
informal a state of agitation or excitement


to coat or become coated with lather
(intr) to form a lather
Derived Formslathery, adjective

Word Origin for lather

Old English lēathor soap; related to Old Norse lauthr foam
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for lather

Old English lauþr "foam, washing soda," from Proto-Germanic *lauþran (cf. Old Norse lauðr "washing soap, foam"), from PIE *loutro- (cf. Gaulish lautron, Old Irish loathar "bathing tub," Greek louein "to bathe," Latin lavere "to wash"), which is from root *leu(e)- "to wash" + instrumentative suffix *-tro-. The modern noun might be a 16c. redevelopment from the verb. Meaning "violent perspiration" (especially of horses) is from 1650s. Meaning "state of agitation" (such as induces sweating) is from 1839.


Old English laþran, from Proto-Germanic *lauþrjan (cf. Old Norse leyðra "to clean, wash;" see lather (n.)). Related: Lathered; lathering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lather


see in a lather.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.