looking the worse for wear


Senior Member
C. J. Sansom writes in his 'Lamentation':

I had seen him standing on the other side of the chapel with the other clerks, a head taller than most, looking a little the worse for wear as he often did on Sundays.

I have difficulty with the words looking a little the worse for wear. What did he often do on Sundays? Could you help?
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    Senior Member
    American English
    He wasn't looking so good because he's showing signs of wear, just as shoes don't look so good after they've been worn. In this case, it's Sunday morning, so there's a chance that he stayed out late drinking on Saturday night and it shows. But that's just speculation.

    From our dictionary: worse for wear:
    3. the worse for wear ⇒ shabby or worn
    4. a slang term for drunk

    Previous threads that don't directly answer your question but are interesting nevertheless:
    "none the worse for wear"
    no worse for wear
    you don't look any worse for wear
    Last edited:


    American English
    Well, it wasn't necessarily what he did Sundays.

    I understand it to mean that he looked like he was worn out, albeit granted, but not the best way to look in church.


    Senior Member
    Many thanks. I did not grasp that 'worse for wear' was an idiom to find in the dictionary.
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