- 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.
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.
Rain, Rain, Go Away: The Definition of Weather
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.
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 vs. Weather vs. Whether: A Notorious Homophone Trio
Other Homophone Trios
Although most homophones appear in pairs, there are other common homophone trios, including:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.