Light vs. lite

Lite has been around in various uses for centuries, but in modern English it is mainly a commercial variant of light. It’s used primarily by food companies, and it usually indicates that a product has fewer calories or fat than a comparable product—for example, Miller Lite, Kikkoman Lite Soy Sauce, and Jarlsberg Lite cheese. This use of lite has been common for a few decades, but many companies still prefer light—for example, Bud Light, Newman’s Own Light Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette, and Dannon Light ‘n Fit Yogurt.

In any case, lite is not an accepted variant of light in any of light‘s other senses. If you want to be safe, use it only in reference to low-calorie or low-fat versions of things.

One exception: Lite is sometimes used metaphorically to describe restrained or less extreme versions of things. It’s often affixed as a suffix, usually with a hyphen—for example:

Until now, Bachmann has been something of a Palin-lite figure and has often been portrayed as a Tea Party loon. [Telegraph]

The Black Eyed Peas do their robot Daft Punk-lite thing. [Wall Street Journal]

My guess is the Manning Centre wants to justify or legitimize the Harper Conservative Party’s, Liberal-lite, wishy-washy brand of conservatism. [National Post]

Lite might be useful in instances like these, but let’s not forget that light still means of relatively little weight or having little force, and there’s no reason not to use it where it fits.

11 thoughts on “Light vs. lite”

  1. I’d say Lite could also be applied to “lightweight” variants of computer software which have lesser or few features/capabilities in comparison to the “full” or “pro” versions.

  2. I have considered using “Lite” in reference to thickness of material in industrial settings. Such as “The specified dimension is 1.000″. It is lite at 0.960″.”

  3. I question wether lite would be proper for; This guitar has lite scratches. You could think it would be the proper way to say that being the scratches were less then heavy.

    • I disagree. The idea behind the never use double negatives oversimplification is that people using them accidentally negate their negative thus making it a positive. This was an intentional positive. It was also necessary because “there is no reason not to do something” is not the same as “there is a reason to do something.”

    • Fail. It is not an example, much less a perfect example. The double negative prescription applies to two negatives in a row that convey a (-1 x -1 = +1) logic. “[T]here’s no reason not to use it where it fits” is consistent; there are not two negations next to each other.

  4. “I have a new light air Genoa that hasn’t seen the light of day yet”. Same spelling with two unrelated meanings in the same sentence sure seams awkward. Damn you English!

  5. Politicizing grammar is disgraceful. Using a quote that deems protecting the American Constitution as lunacy comes from the long discredited model that the Soviet Union was a resounding success. Never forget that the German Socialists received their highest proportion of support from academics.


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