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While browsing supermarket aisles, you may have come across products labeled “lite” and wondered why this peculiar spelling was used instead of the “light” we all know.
The difference is quite simple, and mostly comes down to marketing. Discover the difference between lite and light below to learn when it’s appropriate to use this creative spelling.
The Difference Between Lite and Light
Light and lite can both be used to describe a version of a product that’s less of something—whether it be less sweet, less heavy, or less complex.
Lite is not a real word, but rather an informal variant of light. You may recognize lite from the packaging of some of your favorite food and beverage brands. When used in this context, lite is simply an informal, perhaps more fun way to describe the “lighter” version.
It might be stamped on a Coke can that contains zero sugar, or a bottle of beer that contains less alcohol or fewer calories.
You might also see lite used to describe simplified versions of apps or software that contain fewer features.
When to Use Lite
In any case, the thing to remember is this: while “light” and “lite” carry the same meaning in the contexts mentioned above, that doesn’t mean you can use them interchangeably.
In formal writing, you should always stick with light, unless you’re explicitly referring to a brand name (for example, Miller Lite). In fact, lite is primarily reserved for the advertising world and mostly found in brand names.
Lite cannot be used to refer to the stuff that emanates from your lamp, the sun, or from your phone screen at 2 a.m. It also cannot be used as a verb in the way that light can.
Examples of Lite and Light Products
Below are examples of products that use lite or light in their names:
- Coca-Cola Light (used in Europe; known as “Diet Coke” in North America)
- Spam Lite
- Hershey’s Lite (chocolate syrup)
- Hungry Jack Lite (maple syrup)
- Forever Lite Ultra (protein shakes)
- Miller Lite
- Bud Light
- Coors Light
As you’ll notice in the list above, many brands use lite to describe the versions of their products with fewer calories or less alcohol, while some—like Coca-Cola and Budweiser—prefer to stick with the traditional spelling of light.
When to Use Lite in Writing
Lite should be reserved only for informal writing, when describing a lighter-weight or less complex version of something (usually a product, such as mayonnaise, soda, or an app).
However, in formal writing, you should always use light, unless lite is part of a brand name or other proper noun (like Miller Lite).
Lite vs. Light
The difference between lite and light basically comes down to an issue of formality.
When you’re describing a lightweight version of something, lite may be used in informal writing. However, in formal writing, light should always be used instead (for example, “the light version.”)
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