The Grammarphobia Blog

Is the lease up on “lend”?

Q: Which is better: “I’m going to loan you $500” or “I’m going to lend you $500”? Many thanks.

A: Let me begin by citing the “lend/loan” entry from my book Woe Is I:

“Only the strictest grammarians now insist that loan is the noun and lend is the verb, a distinction that is still adhered to in Britain (Lend me a pound, there’s a good chap). American usage allows that either loan or lend may be used as a verb (Loan me a few bucks till payday). To my ears, though, lend and lent do sound a bit more polished than loan and loaned.”

To this I might add that both verb forms are very old, with “loan” dating from the 1200s and “lend” from the 1400s.

As John Ayto writes in his Dictionary of Word Origins: “Originally there was no d. The Old English verb ‘lend’ was laenan, which in Middle English became lene.”

“But gradually during the Middle English period,” Ayto adds, “the past form lende came to be reinterpreted as a present form, and by the 15th century it was established as the new infinitive.”

The Oxford English Dictionary says the adoption of “lend” may have been influenced by the “preponderance of analogy,” citing similar verbs like “bend,” “rend,” “send,” and “wend.”

Which word is better, “loan” or “lend”? It’s your call. But “lend” seems to be the more popular, at least in Google land. I got more than 9 million hits for “to lend” and not quite 2.9 million for “to loan.”

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