Definition of lose in English:

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Pronunciation: /luːz/

verb (past and past participle lost /lɒst/)

[with object]
1Be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something): I’ve lost my appetite Linda was very upset about losing her job the company may find itself losing customers to cheaper rivals
More example sentences
  • Schools from deprived areas are still losing a proportion of their pupils, probably those with higher parental support and motivation and hence are even more deprived.
  • If family support disappears and a patient loses housing or a job or both, what can the clinician do?
  • But you know, the manufacturing jobs disappear, you lose control over your space.
be deprived of, suffer the loss of, no longer have, stop having
1.1 [with two objects] Cause (someone) to fail to gain or retain (something): you lost me my appointment at London University
More example sentences
  • 'Being female lost me my job'.
  • Spending time in an alcohol detox centre lost me my career with the federal government.
  • Off I went into another manic episode, one that lost me my first job as a social worker, due to my instability.
1.2Be deprived of (a relative or friend) through their death: she lost her husband in the fire
More example sentences
  • And to those who have lost relatives and friends, be assured that you are not forgotten.
  • Many cats belong to elderly, lonely people, their only companion is their furry feline. To them the loss of their beloved friend is akin to losing a close relative.
  • Mary, like the other voluntary members of the group, has a personal interest in the fight against cancer losing relatives and friends to the disease.
1.3(Of a pregnant woman) miscarry (a baby) or suffer the death of (a baby) during childbirth: am I going to lose the baby?
More example sentences
  • She became convinced she was losing her baby and insisted her husband take her to hospital.
  • She has reportedly been put under round-the-clock medical care over fears she could lose her unborn baby..
  • Doctors are gravely concerned that she could lose her baby and the family has asked to be left in peace to cope with the ordeal.
1.4 (be lost) Be destroyed or killed, especially as a result of an accident or military action: a fishing disaster in which 129 men were lost
More example sentences
  • The ship had 5 officers and 33 men on board when sunk, of whom 2 officers and 24 men were lost.
  • Twelve men were lost and the ship abandoned; she later sank while under tow in the South Atlantic.
  • Her entire ship's company of 30 men were lost.
1.5Decrease in (body weight); undergo a reduction of (a specified amount of weight): she couldn’t eat and began to lose weight
More example sentences
  • Now fully recovered, she wanted to reclaim her body and lose some of the weight she had gained as a result of all the medication.
  • To lose body weight, essentially you have to burn more calories than you take in.
  • But, remember, the amount of weight you lose is entirely at your own discretion and you can join in or drop out of the campaign at any time.
1.6(Of a watch or clock) become slow by (a specified amount of time): this clock will neither gain nor lose a second
More example sentences
  • It also depends on the constancy of its rate; meaning, that a watch gains or loses the exact same amount of time each day.
  • They gradually fell out of step, with one clock losing 5 seconds a day in relation to the other.
  • Unfortunately the watch loses 11 seconds a day.
1.7 (lose it) informal Become unable to control one’s temper or emotions: I completely lost it—I was screaming at them
More example sentences
  • I'm told Roseanna has lost it completely and has taken to sticking pins into wax images of her old pal Nicola.
  • I completely lost it and shouted and screamed at him about how selfish he is.
  • As they watched us, mainlanders would shake their heads and wonder whether we had lost it completely.
2Become unable to find (something or someone): I’ve lost the car keys
More example sentences
  • We lost the car keys before and I used the mini torch to help me find them again.
  • They are reminded of what they have been missing, what has been long lost or forgotten.
  • It's been lost, of course, in all the wanderings and dissolutions, which is sad.
mislay, misplace, be unable to find;
drop, forget, overlook, lose track of, leave (behind), fail to keep/retain, fail to keep sight of
2.1Cease or become unable to follow (the right route): the clouds came down and we lost the path
More example sentences
  • So, arriving ahead of time, I lose myself for 10 minutes down a path really called Dunwoman's Lane.
  • To add to their difficulties, when they were far advanced among the hills, their guide lost the road, and was never able to regain it.
  • But at Reelsville they lost the Road. He wrote, "Not a track was to be seen on the smooth green turf beneath the tall, shady oak trees."
stray from, wander from, depart from, go astray from, fail to keep to, fail to keep in sight;
get lost, lose one's bearings
2.2Evade or shake off (a pursuer): he came after me waving his revolver, but I easily lost him
More example sentences
  • He ducked and dodged around the buildings, trying to lose his pursuers but they managed to stay on his tail.
  • He realised now that he would never lose such a determined pursuer in these corridors.
  • There were no more trees with which to lose his pursuers, only a stretch of stone, snow dunes, and mountainside.
leave behind, outdistance, outstrip, outrun, outpace, get ahead of
informal ditch
archaic bilk
2.3North American informal Get rid of (an undesirable person or thing): lose that creep!
More example sentences
  • They need to lose that awful voiceover.
  • Oh, thank God, we get to lose that awful two-tone weave!
  • You need to lose that creep before he pressures you into more things you don't want to do.
2.4 informal Cause (someone) to be unable to follow an argument or explanation: sorry, Tim, you’ve lost me there
More example sentences
  • This is where he loses me, and it's where the traditionalist argument always loses me.
  • This guy is losing me with his explanation of Mrs. Jones though.
  • I have to admit he lost me there.
2.5 (lose oneself in/be lost in) Be or become deeply absorbed in (something): he had been lost in thought
More example sentences
  • I would shirk my daily responsibilities, lay in front of the TV for hours, smoking and losing myself in what was on.
  • When you go to one of those stories, part of what you are doing is trying to lose yourself in something and then you go home and you think about it.
  • The things that we used to romanticize and use as an escape have come back with a hard edge, as forces to be reckoned with rather than as dreams to lose ourselves in.
3Fail to win (a game or contest): England lost the first Test match [no object]: they lost by one vote (as adjective losing) the losing side
More example sentences
  • New Jersey took a 21-point lead into the final period of that contest yet lost the game.
  • Something had to give in the Premiership game of the day when undefeated Aberdeen took on a Melrose team who have gone four games without losing a match.
  • The Cork side have lost all four games to date, so on all known form this should result in a Naas victory.
3.1 [with two objects] Cause (someone) to fail to win (a game or contest): that shot lost him the championship
More example sentences
  • His antics lost him the first game, for which he didn't arrive, and the second, which he threw away.
  • I really fear making a mistake or a wrong decision that costs us points or loses us games.
  • I was just a pawn in his game, he'd have moved on and thrown me away when I lost him his game.
be defeated by, be beaten by, be conquered by, be vanquished by, be trounced by, be worsted by, be bested by, be beaten into second place by
4Earn less (money) than one is spending or has spent: the paper is losing £1.5 million a month [no object]: he lost heavily on box office flops
More example sentences
  • To the best of my knowledge it still loses money so why spend even more money breaking the company up even further.
  • For the race promoter, every single event is a gamble between losing money, earning money, or just breaking even.
  • This column has always argued that economic freedom and the opportunity to make, spend and lose money is central to a creative society.
5Waste or fail to take advantage of (time or an opportunity): he has lost his chance of becoming world No. 1 the government lost no time in holding fresh elections
More example sentences
  • It is certainly an issue I raised at the time, but time has passed and that opportunity has been lost.
  • Outside the project this investment opportunity may well be lost.
  • But trains would have to reverse on departure from both, so any advantage would be completely lost.
neglect, waste, squander, fail to grasp, fail to take, fail to take advantage of, let pass, miss, forfeit, give up, ignore, disregard
informal pass up, lose out on


The verb lose is sometimes mistakenly written as loose, as in this would cause them to loose 20 to 50 per cent (correct form is ... to lose 20 to 50 per cent). There is a word loose, but it is very different—normally an adjective, meaning ‘untethered; not held in place; detached’, as in loose cobbles; the handle was loose; set loose.



have nothing to lose

Be in a situation that is so bad that even if an action is unsuccessful it cannot make it any worse: she decided she had nothing to lose by taking the initiative
More example sentences
  • Sentenced to die, a convicted contract killer has nothing to lose when he snatches a policeman's pistol.
  • A year ago she beat players because she adopted a youthful attitude of having nothing to lose.
  • We have nothing to lose, because we had nothing to start with.

lose heart

Become discouraged: seeing all the things that had to be done, she lost heart
More example sentences
  • This is the one hurdle at which most listeners coming in hope, tend to falter and often lose heart and turn away.
  • However discouraging the prospect, he never lost heart.
  • What should have happened was the next week they should have marched again, but after that march people really lost heart.

lose one's heart to

see heart.

lose height

(Of an aircraft) descend to a lower level in flight.
Example sentences
  • Despite it being a biplane, I really did need very low power settings and improbably high speeds to make it lose height.
  • Just one second later, 44 seconds before the collision, the Swiss air traffic controller instructed the Tupolev to lose height as quickly as possible, contrary to the automatic warning he had just received.
  • Paul made a pass, then circled back round for his landing, as the revs dropped we lost height then glided in for a smooth landing.

lose one's mind (or one's marbles)

informal Go insane.
Example sentences
  • She laughed, her eyes weren't focused and she seemed to have lost her mind and gone insane.
  • Tragically, his boat was later found adrift, no sign of him on board, and in a filthy cabin were the insane diary entries of one who had clearly lost his mind.
  • But in his circles all neurological problems were known as having lost one's marbles.

lose sleep

[usually with negative] Worry about something: no one is losing any sleep over what he thinks of us
More example sentences
  • True, from time to time, feelings will be hurt in these discussions, but why lose sleep worrying about the self-esteem problems of politicians?
  • It is not something I lose sleep worrying about.
  • It's a brave move and I must admit I have lost sleep over it.

lose one's (or the) way

Become unable to find one’s way: we took a wrong turn and lost our way
More example sentences
  • Being unable to read sometimes slowed me down when I lost my way on the road and kept me from being all I could be, but it no longer saddened me.
  • The fog causes Alec to lose his way, and the moonlight comes out when he returns to Tess sleeping.
  • On the way to Aisha, a true indigenous Berber woman, we managed to lose the way many times.
7.1No longer have a clear idea of one’s purpose or motivation in an activity: the company has lost its way and should pull out of general insurance
More example sentences
  • It is this consent and the belief in that promise which is wavering as fighting spreads - and along with it the idea that they are losing their way and have no clear idea how to reassert themselves.
  • ‘It is clear that the Government have lost their way on law and order,’ he writes.
  • His lectures were extremely clear and well-organized; he never lost his way in complicated arguments.

you can't lose

Used to express the belief that someone must inevitably profit from an action or undertaking: we’re offering them for only £2.50—you can’t lose!
More example sentences
  • For the most part, keep being a good friend and see what develops; Even if you don't become boyfriend / girlfriend, you'll have a great guy pal - either way, you can't lose!
  • Go for it - you can't lose.
  • Forget the nervous breakdown Helen, take my advice and go for it girl - you can't lose.

Phrasal verbs

lose out

1Be beaten in competition: they lost out to France in the finals
More example sentences
  • What do you give the company that had every advantage going and still lost out to smaller, less privileged competitors?
  • Scotland's rolling glens and scenic lochs have already lost out to eastern Europe and are now losing the battle to attract India's lucrative film industry, movie chiefs have warned.
  • It is thought that Urbis, which was supposed to pay for itself, has lost out to the Imperial War Museum, the revamped City Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry, which are all free.
2Be deprived of an opportunity; be disadvantaged: youngsters who were losing out on regular schooling
More example sentences
  • Many of these farmers did not have an opportunity to increase numbers and as a result, are losing out on any compensation.
  • That's a huge dent in our finances and obviously if we have to remain closed, we're losing out on a massive chunk of our income at the same time.
  • The recent Easter celebrations, which according to the Bulgarian tradition include eating lamb, were a little overshadowed by news that the country is losing out on lamb exports.


Old English losian 'perish, destroy', also 'become unable to find', from los 'loss'.

  • loose from Middle English:

    The medieval word loose is related to Old English lose and loss, and also to the ending -less, signifying ‘without’. The sense ‘immoral, promiscuous’ dates from around 1470 from the original sense ‘free from bonds’. The term a loose cannon sounds as if it should be centuries old, perhaps from the days of warships in Napoleonic battles. In fact, the first recorded uses are from the late 19th century, and the phrase only really gained currency in the 1970s. That said, it does come from the idea that a cannon which has broken loose from its mounting would be a particularly dangerous hazard on any ship, but especially a wooden one. See also fast

Words that rhyme with lose

abuse, accuse, adieux, amuse, bemuse, billets-doux, blues, booze, bruise, choose, Clews, confuse, contuse, cruise, cruse, Cruz, diffuse, do's, Druze, effuse, enthuse, excuse, fuse (US fuze), Hughes, incuse, interfuse, Mahfouz, mews, misuse, muse, news, ooze, Ouse, perfuse, peruse, rhythm-and-blues, ruse, schmooze, snooze, suffuse, Toulouse, transfuse, trews, use, Vaduz, Veracruz, who's, whose, youse

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lose

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