Grammar 5 min read

Wether vs. Weather vs. Whether: How to use Each Word Correctly

Main Takeaways:

  • Wether, weather, and whether are homophones. Meaning, they sound alike but have different meanings.
  • Weather refers to the atmospheric state, including temperature, cloud cover, and moisture.
  • The word whether is a conjunction that’s used to express possibilities.
  • Wether is the term for a castrated sheep or goat.

Maybe you planned on bringing the wether in from the pasture whether or not the weather turned bad. If so, then you’ve used three of the most confusing homophones in the English language: wether, weather, and whether. If you want to eliminate the confusion between whether or wether—and whether or weather—keep reading.

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Wether vs. Weather vs. Whether: Same Pronunciation, Different Meanings

Although all three of these words sound the same when spoken aloud, they have completely different meanings. Let’s take a look at the definitions of weather, whether, and wether.

Wether, weather, and whether are homophones. Meaning, they sound alike but have different meanings
Wether, weather, and whether are homophones. Meaning, they sound alike but have different meanings

Rain, Rain, Go Away: The Definition of Weather

As a noun, weather refers to atmospheric conditions, including temperature, cloudiness, precipitation, and wind.
On their wedding day, the wether was snowy and cold.
On their wedding day, the weather was snowy and cold.
As a verb, weather means to wear away due to exposure to elements such as air and water. It can also mean to make it safely through a trial or tribulation (in other words, a literal or metaphorical storm).
Spending hours in the sun whethered Liam’s skin until he looked years older than his actual age.
Spending hours in the sun weathered Liam’s skin until he looked years older than his actual age.

Livestock Specialists Only: The Meaning of Wether

Unless you work on a ranch or in animal husbandry, you may never have encountered the word wether. A wether is a sheep or goat that was castrated prior to sexual maturity.

They raised most weathers on his ranch for their wool.
They raised most wethers on his ranch for their wool.

Oh, The Possibilities: Defining Whether

This conjunction represents possibilities and is similar to if. It can be used in three ways:

  • When there is a choice between two possibilities
  • When it doesn’t matter which possibility is true (whether…or not)
  • And when there’s doubt about which possibility is true
Wether or not you want to go to the wedding, the bride is expecting you to be there.
Whether or not you want to go to the wedding, the bride is expecting you to be there.

Wether vs. Weather vs. Whether: A Notorious Homophone Trio

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings (and, in the case of wether vs. weather vs. whether, different spellings). Broken down to its roots, homo- means same and -phone means sound.

Other Homophone Trios

Although most homophones appear in pairs, there are other common homophone trios, including:

  • Rain/reign/rein
  • Two/too/to
  • Buy/bye/by
  • Dew/due/do
  • Four/fore/for
  • Pear/pair/pare
  • Write/right/rite
  • Sight/site/cite
  • Wear/where/ware
  • Their/there/they’re
  • Eye/aye/I

Bellwethers, Under the Weather, and Other Common Expressions

Knowing which spelling to choose—wether vs. weather vs. whether—can be tricky. Knowing how to spell them in expressions and words that include them can be even trickier. Let’s explore a few.

Bellwether

The word bellwether originated when shepherds—or goatherds, as the case may be—attached a bell to the lead wether. The ringing of the bell would call the other animals to follow.

Today, a bellwether is a leader or a trendsetter. It may refer to a person, or to a place or object that serves as an indicator or predictor.

The young fashionista was the bellwether of clothing trends throughout the workplace.

Under the Weather

This common colloquialism refers to someone who is sick or in poor spirits. It originated as a nautical term that referred to an unwell sailor who was sent below deck. There, he would be sheltered from the weather while he recuperates. Thus, it takes on the spelling of weather.

Carol brought chicken soup to her boyfriend when he was under the weather.

Fair-Weather Friend

A fair-weather friend is another common weather-related idiom. This one has been around since the mid-1800s or earlier. It refers to a friend who is there in good times, but can’t be counted on in bad times. In other words, a fair-weather friend is around when skies are blue, but not when the weather turns stormy. Because of this, it’s spelled as weather.

When Rose was injured in the car accident, she found out that Mary was nothing but a fair-weather friend.
Two panels showing the difference between
Whether has two “h”s and usually used when you’re torn between two choices. Weather has one “h” and refers to atmospheric condition.

Weather, Whether, and Wether: Keeping Them Straight

Maybe you’re checking the weather before you decide whether to nap. Perhaps, you’re out in the field tying bells on your wethers before the weather gets bad. If you want to write about it, you should probably memorize these three homophones.

Try remembering that the A in weather stands for “air,” while whether has two of the letter H, representing a choice. As for wether, now that you know its true meaning, we’re pretty sure you’ll remember that one.

Read More: What Is Correct? Alot Or A Lot? And, What About Allot?

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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