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Wether vs. Weather vs. Whether—What’s the Difference?

Updated on May 23, 2023Grammar

If you saw wether, would you think it was a misspelling of weather or whether? Wether is a word, but what does it mean? What’s are the differences between these three words?

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Wether definition

A wether is a ram or goat that is castrated at a young age. Unless you work with livestock, you are not likely to use the term very often. However, one word that you may know derives from wether. Shepherds and goatherds attach a bell to the lead animal in their herd and call it a bellwether. The word now describes someone who leads or something that sets a trend. In an election, counties or states are bellwethers when they seem to indicate which direction the country will go.

“And shepherds would tie a bell to one of their trained wethers and let that wether find the path or answer the call . . . And the bell would jangle, and the other sheep would go along. So in politics, the bellwether is a state that signals the direction of the whole flock of states.” —NPR

“There were a lot of happy wether sellers at the Jamestown, South Australia, sheep market last Thursday.” —Stock & Land

Now for the other two, more commonly used, confusing homophoneswhether and weather

Weather definition

The noun weather derives from a word meaning air and sky. The state of almost anything related to the air or the sky is weather—temperature, wind, moisture, etc. As a verb, weather means to endure or to be exposed to and affected by weather. Let’s look at some examples before moving on to whether.

“When we make a weather forecast, we have thousands of observations of temperature, wind and moisture at different levels of the atmosphere that feed into our models.” —The Washington Post

“If the team can weather the adversity it has faced this fall, Denham should be among the teams to beat in Class 5A this season.” —The Advocate

Whether definition

Whether is a conjunction. Its meaning is similar to if. It indicates a question of alternatives. Here is an example of whether in the phrase it most commonly appears in—“whether or not.”

“It’s time for retailers to help people find products in their precise moment of need—and perhaps before they even perceive that need—whether or not they’re logged in or ready to click a ‘buy’ button on a screen.”

Whether or weather or wether?

Whether is a conjunction indicating alternatives. Wether is a neutered goat or sheep. Weather is the state of the atmosphere. Will you ever mix them up again?

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