hate / detest / loathe

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Senior Member
Hi, I'd like to know the difference between "hate" and "detest". Is one stronger than the other or are they used in different contexts ? I've been working and reading in English for now 3 years and I had never encountered the word "detest" before yesterday. Is it common or quite old ?
  • wesetters

    Senior Member
    detest is more haïr, whereas hate is closer to détester - detest is much stronger.

    It's not uncommon at all, but much less used than hate (same with haïr...)


    Senior Member
    UK - English
    I've always been under the impression that haïr was 'to hate' (a rather strong word) and that détester is 'to dislike/despise'. An example, is the film La haine which is translated as 'Hatred' and not with the verb détester because it's just not a strong enough verb.


    Senior Member
    Canada; English
    Although both words should have similar meaning, "hate" in informal usage has come to mean merely "to dislike". "Detest", on the other hand, always means "to dislike intensely, hate intensely, loathe". Both words can be used in relation to things or persons.

    A teenager can say to her mother who grounded her, "I hate you", but not "I detest you". The latter would be too injurious, while the former just means "I don't like what you did". Politicians may hate one another, but they rarely detest one another (M. de Villepin and M. Sarkozy are exceptions).

    One can make "detest" stronger by adding qualifiers such as "thoroughly", "cordially", "with a vengeance". E.g. A cordially detests B. The word "cordially" does not have its usual meaning but strengthens the word "detest".
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    The word "cordially" does not have its usual meaning but strengthens the word "detest"
    Interestingly, en français 'détester cordialement' est aussi une expression très fréquente : 'Ils se détestent cordialement' (—> beaucoup, mais froidement, comme dans une guerre froide).

    Et merci bh7 pour tes explications.


    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    The third verbal synonym is correctly spelled to loathe (the related adjective is loath--I am loath to = I would not like to).

    To me to loathe is a "cold" hate whereas to detest is more hot-blooded...
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