• synonyms


  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 lather1

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

Related Words

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 lathering

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The horse, with lathering neck and distended nostrils, paused before them.

    The Plunderer

    Roy Norton

  • This lathering and rubbing to be done at another time from the first rubbing for the lungs.

  • Capital animals for an opposition, they take a lathering so quiet!


    John P. Kennedy

  • I walked the lathering mare to the lines, like a tired jockey who has run his race.

    Tell England

    Ernest Raymond

  • After lathering the top of my head, she then shaved the hair off all round the wound, and I was ready for the surgeon's visit.

    Wounded and a Prisoner of War

    Malcolm V. (Malcolm Vivian) Hay

British Dictionary definitions for lathering


  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

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 lathering



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 lathering


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.