Laps vs. Lapse

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Laps and lapse are two words that are pronounced in the same manner but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language. Pronunciation may change, even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. We will examine the definitions of the words laps and lapse, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Laps is the plural form of the word lap, which has several meanings. Lap may refer to the circuit around a racecourse or a track, a circuit back and forth across a pool, or a portion of a trip. Lap may also refer to the amount of one thing overlapping another. Lap also refers to the area between the knees and waist, when one is seated. Lap is used as a verb to mean to overtake one’s opponent in a race by more than one circuit. The word lap is also used as a verb to mean to drink a liquid such as water by sticking one’s tongue in it and bringing it to the mouth. This meaning is also used figuratively, to mean to eagerly accept something. The word lap is derived from the Old English word læppa, which means the skirt of a garment. Related words are lap, lapped, lapping.

Lapse may mean a temporary break in one’s concentration or judgment, a small failure of some sort in one’s moral character, logic, ability, etc. A moral lapse is the act of committing a sin that one does not usually partake in. A lapse of judgment is a fairly bad mistake one makes with consequences. Lapse may also mean an interval of time, and is used as a verb to mean something that has expired or has not been renewed, something that has come to an end or the end of practicing a certain set of rules and regulations. A lapsed Catholic is a person who was raised in the Catholic faith but no longer practices the religion. The word lapse is derived from the Latin word lapsare which means to loose one’s footing, to slip and fall. Related words are lapses, lapsed, lapsing.


Kyle Busch held off Brad Keselowski in the final dozen laps of the Can-Am 500 Sunday and will bring that momentum to the season finale next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (USA Today)

Swimming laps or taking water aerobics classes eliminates the impact of treadmills or stair masters while introducing the added resistance of water displacement. (The Lewistown Sentinel)

The issue of schoolgirls sitting in the laps of boys as they commute to school via public transportation was recently highlighted in this newspaper. (The Jamaica Gleaner)

When I return, after excitedly greeting me, she goes to her bowl and laps up a large amount of water. (The Allentown Morning Call)

In a serious electoral lapse on part of the Jammu and Kashmir government authorities, a woman from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) was declared elected unopposed as sarpanch of Khumriyal area in the terror-infested Kupwara district in North Kashmir. (The Statesman)

The judge found that Mr Palmer, who drove the tractor, had a “momentary lapse of concentration”. (The Independent)

Enjoyed reading about these homophones? Check out some others we covered: