Word Choice: Waist vs. Waste
  • 3-minute read
  • 27th June 2021

Word Choice: Waist vs. Waste

The words “waist” and “waste” are homophones, so they sound the same but have different meanings. Because of their differences, you won’t want to mix these words up in your writing. Find out how to use them correctly with our helpful guide.

Waist (Part of the Body)

“Waist” is a noun that refers to the part of the body between the hips and chest:

Tie your karate belt around your waist.

You’ll also see this spelling in words like “waistline” (a person’s measurements around the waist) and “waistband” (the waist section of an item of clothing).

More rarely, “waist” can refer to a mid-section of a vehicle, such as the central deck of a ship. However, it usually refers to part of the human body.

Waste (Unwanted Material or Bad Usage)

“Waste” has a range of uses related to something being unwanted or used badly. As a noun, for example, it can refer to unwanted or useless materials:

The city council collects household waste weekly.

Or it can refer to a poor or inefficient use of something:

Counting needles on a pine tree is a waste of time.

As a verb, meanwhile, it typically means “spend or use carelessly”:

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Don’t waste your money on a toaster that doesn’t work.

It can even be an adjective meaning “unwanted or not needed”:

Make sure to recycle waste paper.

This term has other uses (e.g., to “lay waste” to something is to destroy it). But in most cases, “waste” is related to unwanted matter or the poor use of something.

Summary: Waist or Waste?

Although these words sound the same, they mean different things:

  • Waist is a noun that refers to the part of the body between the hips and chest.
  • Waste can be a noun, a verb, or an adjective and has various uses, but it usually refers to unwanted matter or the poor use of a resource.

One way to tell these homophones apart is to remember the following phrase:

I have a waist, and “waist” has an “i.”

In other words, when you’re referring to the body part (or something related to the body part), you’ll need the spelling with an “i.” In other cases, the correct spelling will be “waste.” And if you’d like more help with your writing, we have expert editors available 24/7. Upload a document for a free proofreading trial today.

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