Teeth vs. teethe

Teeth is the plural of tooth. It’s only a noun. Teethe, with that third e, is a verb meaning to grow teeth. It’s inflected teething, teethed, and teethes.

Teethe is often used metaphorically to mean to pass through early stages of development. This sense is especially common in phrases such as teething problems and teething troubles, referring to early difficulties in a growth or development process.

The verb is usually pronounced with a soft th, like the one in breathe and smooth.


That is why it can be so hard to watch a child teethe, as it is a painful process you can do little about. [Guelph Mercury]

Like human babies, puppies teethe on things. [Four Paws from Heaven]

More important, when a player who teethed in MLS goes abroad and does well, it encourages foreign coaches to look closely at other talent in the league. [Forbes]

Even now, it causes me pain to think of her ending up being used as a teething ring for some snotty toddler. [Stuff.co.nz]

But how can we ensure these are teething problems and do not portend greater turmoil? [Financial Times]

At 8 months to a year, a baby can sit up, can handle finger foods, and begins to teethe. [Nutrition, Frances Sizer, Ellie Whitney]

This can partly be put down to teething problems after 11 years in opposition and a ”go slow” strategy designed to extend the political cycle. [Sydney Morning Herald]

1 thought on “Teeth vs. teethe”

  1. “soft th” isn’t the best way to describe that TH, as I have no idea what that even means. Rather, you should say “voiced TH” and “voiceless TH”. And to help people remember the difference between ‘teeth’ and ‘teethe’, it’s as simple as TH at the beginning and ending of a word are voiceless, and if in the middle of a word it’s voiced. So by having a silent E after a TH, you know that it’s voiced. ‘Smooth’ is just a stupid spelling someone made perhaps in an attempt to remove a “pointless” silent letter, or maybe it was just a typo that we got stuck it; It was originally written ‘smoothe’. Besides “misspelt” words like that, the only exceptions to the rule are function words (the, this, that, etc) and newer words we got from Greek or Latin (method, author, etc). So yeah, I guess it does get kind of complicated. It’s hard to know where a word came from without taking the time to look it up.


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