to leave the door on the latch vs off the latch

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MateuszMoś

Senior Member
Hello,

I have been trying to figure out if there is any difference between those phrases, however, I have not reached a satisfying conclusion yet.
To me, logically thinking, "on the latch" suggests that the door is closed(or, there is negligible space). "Off the latch", to me, means that ther door is ajar and there is significant space between the edge of the door and the frame.


The problem aroused when I checked my Polish-English dictionary and, to my surprise, "on the latch" and "off the latch" appeared to be 100% synonymous.
 
  • apricots

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Off the latch means slightly open, on the latch means closed but unlocked.

    Also, you want "arose" not "aroused" in your last sentence. The problem arose.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    The phrase "on the latch" in BE means a door which is closed but not actually locked (for example, one with a Yale-type lock).

    I don't think I've ever actually heard anyone say "off the latch". :confused:
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I have never heard of a door being either on or off the latch.

    Moreover, doors in the U.S. these days have locks, not latches, a term that seems rather medieval to me.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'On the latch' is still used in the UK despite the absence of latches on modern house doors. It simply means unlocked but shut. If we don't want our handle-less front door to close at all we turn the lock so it can't engage and close the door 'to', as we say idiomatically and colloquially. Then we can't really even shut the door but it will look as if it's shut.

    We also say 'Leave the door on the latch'
    "When you went out you left the door to! Anybody could have walked in."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have never heard of a door being either on or off the latch.

    Moreover, doors in the U.S. these days have locks, not latches, a term that seems rather medieval to me.
    If your doors still have night-latch rim locks they do have a latch, which remains a perfectly modern term. Like this

    The latch is the small sliding knob which engages with the bolt to lock it open (on the latch) or to lock it closed to prevent it being opened even with a key. Other types of locks also have latches which do the same job, but which aren't just a simple slider.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    'On the latch' is still used in the UK despite the absence of latches on modern house doors. It simply means unlocked but shut. If we don't want our handle-less front door to close at all we turn the lock so it can't engage and close the door 'to', as we say idiomatically and colloquially. Then we can't really even shut the door but it will look as if it's shut.

    We also say 'Leave the door on the latch'
    "When you went out you left the door to! Anybody could have walked in."
    I agree with SDG that we don't use "latch" like that in AmE, but your phrase, Hermione, "When you went out, you left to the door to" jogged memories of my Grandma, who would have said that. She was Irish American.
     
    Last edited:

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The latch is the small sliding knob which engages with the bolt to lock it open (on the latch)
    From Andy #8
    Yes, that is exactly what I had in mind.

    "When you went out, you left to the door to" jogged memories of my Grandma, who would have said that. She was Irish American.
    Interesting - three of my grandparents were Irish, two of them second generation. I don't know how widespread the idiom is.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This is a latch to my AE way of thinking. Some outdated terms seem to live forever, e.g. "dialing" a telephone number.

    My assumed expertise ;)on the matter stems from a visit to the Canadian replica of Anne Hathaway's cottage, situated in Victoria, B.C., where a similar device was used to secure the front door from the inside.

    Access from the outside was gained by pulling a string that passed to the outside. If the family wanted privacy, they simply pulled the string inside.

    Thus rose the idiom "leave the latch string out," meaning "you are welcome."
     
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