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  1. foam or froth made by a detergent, especially soap, when stirred or rubbed in water, as by a brush used in shaving or by hands in washing.
  2. foam or froth formed in profuse sweating, as on a horse.
  3. Informal. a state of excitement, agitation, nervous tension, or the like: He was in a lather over my delay.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to form a lather: a soap that lathers well.
  2. to become covered with lather, as a horse.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to apply lather to; cover with lather: He lathered his face before shaving.
  2. Informal. to beat or whip.
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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]
  1. a worker who puts up laths.
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Origin of lather

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for lather

froth, tizzy, yeast, foam, head, spume, suds, soap, cream, soapsuds, bustle, turmoil, fever, flap, agitation, confusion, twitter, hoopla, hubbub, state

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


  1. foam or froth formed by the action of soap or a detergent in water
  2. foam formed by other liquid, such as the sweat of a horse
  3. informal a state of agitation or excitement
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  1. to coat or become coated with lather
  2. (intr) to form a lather
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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.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lather


see in a lather.

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