The worse for wear

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The phrase the worse for a wear is an idiom that dates back several hundred years. An idiom is a figure of speech that is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definition of the expression the worse for wear, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The phrase the worse for wear describes someone or something that has been used and shows signs of that use. Something that is the worse for wear is in bad condition, shabby, worn out. A person who is described as being the worse for wear may look exhausted, ill, dirty or disheveled. The worse for wear may also be used as a euphemism for someone who is drunk or hungover from drinking, especially in British English. To express that someone has endured something and come through it with no ill effect, the expression none the worse for wear is used. The expression the worse for wear dates back at least to 1546. It is found in A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue by John Heywood: “Al thyng is the wors for the wearyng.”


It’s well-known around the state that a number of rural schools are a little worse for wear, having faced the harsh elements head-on for many years, in some cases. (The Arctic Sounder)

Fuming is mostly reserved for celebrities when tabloids report that their toyboy lover has been spied outside a nightclub, looking the worse for wear and accompanied by the star of a long-forgotten TV reality show. (The Telegraph)

To the collective relief of all of Brazil, Neymar looked none the worse for wear despite the host’s bruising play. (The Rio Times)