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Which is the Correct Word, Bath or Bathe?

Many people know the answer to this question, but there can be considerable confusion for some folks, so it is worth a little bit of explanation. Some people may wonder which spelling is correct; ‘bath’ or ‘bathe’.

I’ve actually heard that they are spelled differently because of the difference between British spelling and American spelling. This is totally incorrect. Both spellings came from England and both are correct, mostly because they refer to different words, in regard to the way they are used.

To put it more clearly, ‘bath‘ is a noun. It is a thing. A person who ‘takes a bath’ immerses themselves in water (usually). A ‘bathtub’ is literally a tub made to contain the water in which a person can take a bath, regardless of the shape of the tub. A tub isn’t even necessary in order to take a bath. A person can take a bath in a lake, river, or the ocean. In fact, they can take a bath in the sunshine, too.

Bathe‘ is a verb. It is what a person does when they immerse themselves in a bath. The “e” at the end simply gives the “a” a long vowel sound so the words are pronounced slightly differently.

The point is that the difference between the two words is that one is a noun and the other is a verb. It has nothing to do with British vs. American spelling.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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10 Comments

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  1. I think for people whose mother tongue is not English, we are pretty confused with Britain and American English spellings. For instance, I wrote an article for an online site and informed by the editor it had some spelling errors. Looking closely, I hadn’t used American vocabularies but British.

    Thanks for updating our English vocabulary. Another one closely resembling yours is breath and breathe.

    • You are quite correct. What a lot of people don’t know is that American spelling is different than British spelling, on purpose. It was one of the few means available after the war of independence to show a difference between America and England. At the time, few people gave much thought to how confusing it would be to ESL people. Many still don’t. English is a hard language to learn, regardless if it is British or American, and the differences make it just that much harder.

      Yes, breath and breathe is another great example. In ‘breath’, the ‘ea’ has an ‘eh’ sound. Putting the E at the end, so it is breathe, changes the ‘ea’ to a hard E sound.

      • I used to wonder why different spellings. You have answered my question that has troubled me for many years. Learning English is one of the easiest language to learn but hard to put it into practice.

        It was my favourite subject in high school and still is but I never seem to reach the level I desire.

    • I have just had a great interest in reading since I was quite young and an interest in writing almost as long. In school, I hated English class. It was the only one that I had to actually work at. Still, the first novel I wrote was at the age of 8 and a lot of the novelists that I read had amazing vocabularies. I tried to emulate them, so I looked at the language in more detail.

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