Lost or Loss?

It’s never fun losing things. My personal bane is my car keys. No matter how many holders or key rings I hang up by the doorway, I always end up losing my keys, and when I need to leave for work, I’m scrambling to find them!

And that’s what I want to talk about today: losing things! Or, at least the words that we use to describe losing things.

If you lose your car keys (like I do), are they lost or loss?

Let’s find out!

loss versus lost

Using Lost Correctly

How should I use lost? In most cases, lost is the past tense and past participle of the verb to lose. In other words, you should be using lost as a verb in your writing.

There are many different uses and meanings of lost, but they can be broken down into a few main categories.

  • Unable to find something > I lost my keys.
  • Fail to retain > I lost my job.
  • Fail to win > We lost the game.

There are other figurative uses of lost, too.

  • Have you lost your mind?
  • I lost my appetite.

In addition to its use as a verb, lost can also function as an adjective where it means unable to find one’s way or unable to be found.

  • I got lost in the woods.
  • Sally solved the mystery of the lost TV remote.

Other Uses of Lost

Lost can be found in a number of common phrases that you are likely to hear in speech or read in books. Let’s go over a few.

Get lost! > Meaning: Informal and rude way to tell someone to leave.

All is not lost > Meaning: There is still hope. Don’t give up.

A lost cause > Meaning: No hope.

Using Loss Correctly

How should I use loss? Unlike lost, which can function as multiple parts of speech, loss is only ever used as a noun, so it’s meaning a little more restricted.

  • The fact or process of losing > The team had three losses last week.
  • An amount of money lost by a business or organization > I had to sell these products at a loss.

Other Uses of Loss

Lost is also used a few commonly used phrases. Let’s go over them, so you’re familiar with them.

At a loss > Meaning: to be puzzled or confused.

As a loss for words > Meaning: Not sure what to say from a surprise or shock.

Lost and Loss: Examples

The New York Times tracked the accounts of more than 3,000 of the most popular celebrities, politicians and world leaders to see who lost the greatest number of followers. –New York Times

A Canadian woman got an extra carrot with her diamond ring when it was found in her vegetable patch 13 years after she lost it. –BBC

Toyota Motor, the Japanese auto giant, said Monday that it expected its first operating loss in 70 years, underscoring how the economic crisis was spreading across the global auto industry. –New York Times

On Tuesday night, Serena Williams’ comeback sputtered in San Jose, as she suffered the worst loss of her 23-year career – a 6-1, 6-0 first-round drubbing at the hands of No. 48 Johanna Konta. –USA Today

Bottom Line: Lost vs. Loss

Since these are different parts of speech, you’ll want to know how these words differ from each other and how to use them correctly. They are never interchangeable.

Bottom Line:

  • Lost is a verb.
  • Loss is a noun.