Leaped or Leapt?

Q: I’ve seen it written both ways: “leaped” and “leapt.” Which is correct? —Tony V.

He leaped off the building. She leapt off the building. This may surprise you, but both “leapt” and “leaped” are acceptable past-tense and past-participial forms of the verb “leap.” It’s fine to use either one.

According to Garner’s Modern American Usage, traditionalists prefer “leapt,” so if you want to keep the grammar curmudgeons happy, stick with that. But if you’re more of a nonconformist (and I’m TOTALLY a nonconformist), choose “leaped” so you can feel like a rule-breaker (even if you aren’t actually breaking any usage rules).

The only common error sneaking its way into the works is “lept,” which is just a misspelling of “leapt.” Avoid that, and you’ll be fine.

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6 thoughts on “Leaped or Leapt?

  1. slumpysmith

    I think your explanation of the difference between ‘leap’ and ‘leapt’ is a little reductive. In a purely grammatical sense, ‘leaped’ is the correct simple past tense form of ‘leap’ (i.e. He leaped for the roof, hoping he would learn to fly before the ground caught him), while ‘leapt’, in its origins, is the past participle of ‘leap’ and is thus employed to describe pluperfect action (i.e. He had leapt from this precipice many times) as well as action taking place in an ablative absolute clause (All his friends having leapt from the cliff, he leaped likewise) and, of course, action described in the past participle form (i.e. Having leapt, he waited for gravity to do the rest). Knowing when to use one rather than the other is as simple as knowing when to use, say, ‘wrote’ instead of ‘written’, or similarly ‘sang’ instead of ‘sung’.

    The only reason that contemporary grammarians equate ‘leaped’ and ‘leapt’ is a because a mass confusion of the terms by modern writers; but while grammarians attempt to compensate for our general ignorance, Grammar itself is a science as rigid and dispassionate as any other, and so, however interchangeable they may indeed seem, there is, in fact, a decided difference between these two terms. For similar instances in English, confer ‘dreamed’ and ‘dreamt’.

  2. Chad Lynch

    This drove me crazy a few days ago. Checked multiple online dictionaries as well as the two large dead tree versions on my shelf. Couldn’t for the life of me find leapt even though I knew in my gut it was correct.


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