Loss vs Lost – Pick The Correct Word

Loss and lost differ by just a single letter, so they sound and look similar to each other. They also have similar meanings because both words derive from the verb “to lose.”

The lose means to fail to keep or maintain. One can lose any number of things such as possessions, a sense of direction, weight, or a loved one.

While this article deals with the difference between loss and lost (both of which relate to the verb lose), be careful not to confuse lose with loose. The latter is an adjective that means the opposite of “tight” and has nothing to do with loss or lost.

Fortunately, for the purposes of this article, the difference between loss and lost is fairly simple: they are different parts of speech.

Differences in Usage: Loss vs Lost

This post takes a look at the words loss and lost. I will go over each word’s definition and provide examples demonstrating the word’s function within the sentence.

Then, I’ll share a memory trick so that you will know whether to use lost or loss for the future.

What Does Loss Mean?

Meaning of Loss: Loss is a noun, so it is usually preceded by an article, such as “the” or “a.”

A loss is the act or process of losing. It is common in the context of strategy, business, gaming, and elsewhere.

For example,

  • Not planning for this disaster was a strategic loss.
  • Our team suffered a terrible loss
  • Price down that old Valentine’s candy; we’ll have to sell it at a loss.

In the last example, the candy is being sold “at a loss.” If something is sold “at a loss,” it is being sold for less than the cost of producing it.

Loss can be used as a euphemism for death.

  • I took the loss of my mother very hard.

One might also be “at a loss” for words if they don’t know what to say.

What Does Lost Mean?

Meaning of Lost: Lost is the past participle of the verb to lose. As such, it can function as a past tense verb or as an adjective.

Lost as a past tense verb. In this sense, lost is an action, so it is something the subject of the sentence has done. It usually means that something is not in one’s possession, its whereabouts are unknown, or something failed to be won or used.

  • I lost my dog.
  • Have you lost your mind?
  • We lost the game.

Lost as an adjective. In this sense, lost is describing a noun, such as a person or thing that is missing. While the meaning is the same as above, it is a description rather than an action.

  • Hey, that’s my lost dog!
  • We still hope to find the lost city of Atlantis.
  • It was a lost cause anyway.

As you would expect from an adjective, lost appears directly before a noun in all three of the above examples.

Loss vs Lost: How to Remember the Difference

Now that you know the difference between lost and loss, all you have to do is remember which word is which.

Lost has a T, like in the words pasttense. Lost is the past tense of “to lose,” while loss is a noun.

Recap: When to Use Loss and Lost

Loss and lost are both words that come from the verb “to lose.” Despite this relationship, each word serves a separate grammatical function.

  • Loss is a noun.
  • Lost is a past tense verb or an adjective.