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$ PATH vs $ path

I do not remember why, but a long time ago I found out that for some reason I needed to set both of these variables. It caused no problems in bash, but now in zsh, when I added

export PATH=~/bin:/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:$PATH
export path=$PATH

(same as I used in .bashrc) in my initialization, I get

/Users/…/.zshenv:export:7: path: inconsistent type for assignment

What do they mean by “type”, and what is $ path used for?

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