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[wair] /wɛər/
verb (used with object), wore, worn, wearing.
to carry or have on the body or about the person as a covering, equipment, ornament, or the like:
to wear a coat; to wear a saber; to wear a disguise.
to have or use on the person habitually:
to wear a wig.
to bear or have in one's aspect or appearance:
to wear a smile; to wear an air of triumph.
to cause (garments, linens, etc.) to deteriorate or change by wear:
Hard use has worn these gloves.
to impair, deteriorate, or consume gradually by use or any continued process:
Long illness had worn the bloom from her cheeks.
to waste or diminish gradually by rubbing, scraping, washing, etc.:
The waves have worn these rocks.
to make (a hole, channel, way, etc.) by such action.
to bring about or cause a specified condition in (a person or thing) by use, deterioration, or gradual change:
to wear clothes to rags; to wear a person to a shadow.
to weary; fatigue; exhaust:
Toil and care soon wear the spirit.
to pass (time) gradually or tediously (usually followed by away or out):
We wore the afternoon away in arguing.
Nautical. to bring (a vessel) on another tack by turning until the wind is on the stern.
British Dialect. to gather and herd (sheep or cattle) to a pen or pasture.
verb (used without object), wore, worn, wearing.
to undergo gradual impairment, diminution, reduction, etc., from wear, use, attrition, or other causes (often followed by away, down, out, or off).
to retain shape, color, usefulness, value, etc., under wear, use, or any continued strain:
a strong material that will wear; colors that wear well.
(of time) to pass, especially slowly or tediously (often followed by on or away):
As the day wore on, we had less and less to talk about.
to have the quality of being easy or difficult to tolerate, especially after a relatively long association:
It's hard to get to know him, but he wears well.
Nautical. (of a vessel) to come round on another tack by turning away from the wind.
Obsolete. to be commonly worn; to be in fashion.
the act of wearing; use, as of a garment: articles for winter wear; I've had a lot of wear out of this coat;
I had to throw away the shirt after only three wears.
the state of being worn, as on the person.
clothing or other articles for wearing; especially when fashionable or appropriate for a particular function (often used in combination):
travel wear; sportswear.
gradual impairment, wasting, diminution, etc., as from use:
The carpet shows wear.
the quality of resisting deterioration with use; durability.
Verb phrases
wear down,
  1. to reduce or impair by long wearing:
    to wear down the heels of one's shoes.
  2. to weary; tire:
    His constant talking wears me down.
  3. to prevail by persistence; overcome:
    to wear down the opposition.
wear off, to diminish slowly or gradually or to diminish in effect; disappear:
The drug began to wear off.
wear out,
  1. to make or become unfit or useless through hard or extended use:
    to wear out clothes.
  2. to expend, consume, or remove, especially slowly or gradually.
  3. to exhaust, as by continued strain; weary:
    This endless bickering is wearing me out.
wear thin,
  1. to diminish; weaken:
    My patience is wearing thin.
  2. to become less appealing, interesting, tolerable, etc.:
    childish antics that soon wore thin.
Origin of wear
before 900; (v.) Middle English weren to have (clothes) on the body, waste, damage, suffer waste or damage, Old English werian; cognate with Old Norse verja, Gothic wasjan to clothe; (noun) late Middle English were act of carrying on the body, derivative of the v.; akin to Latin vestis clothing (see vest)
Related forms
wearer, noun
rewear, verb, rewore, reworn, rewearing.
26c. tire, fatigue, drain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for wear thin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is unwise to wear thin, transparent stockings on a cold day.

    Clothing and Health Helen Kinne
  • Some campers like long German stockings, which serve also for leggings, and wear thin cotton socks inside them.

    Packing and Portaging Dillon Wallace
  • All the better, for we never could wear thin dresses out-of-doors in May!

  • Elderly men, or those subject to rheumatism, will do well to wear thin flannel suits.

  • He's gone: come, sweet, let's to church immediately, that I may go and take my revenge: I'll make him wear thin breeches.

  • Under such circumstances tempers often wear thin, and a habit of bickering takes possession of a mess.

    Our Casualty And Other Stories James Owen Hannay, AKA George A. Birmingham
  • One flannel petticoat will wear nearly as long as two, if turned behind-part before, when the front begins to wear thin.

  • For the first rapture of the astonishing news was beginning to wear thin, and doubt was appearing in spots.

    A Woman Named Smith Marie Conway Oemler
British Dictionary definitions for wear thin


verb wears, wearing, wore, worn
(transitive) to carry or have (a garment, etc) on one's person as clothing, ornament, etc
(transitive) to carry or have on one's person habitually: she wears a lot of red
(transitive) to have in one's aspect: to wear a smile
(transitive) to display, show, or fly: a ship wears its colours
to deteriorate or cause to deteriorate by constant use or action
to produce or be produced by constant rubbing, scraping, etc: to wear a hole in one's trousers
to bring or be brought to a specified condition by constant use or action: to wear a tyre to shreds
(intransitive) to submit to constant use or action in a specified way: his suit wears well
(transitive) to harass or weaken
when intr, often foll by on. (of time) to pass or be passed slowly
(transitive) (Brit, slang) to accept: Larry won't wear that argument
wear ship, to change the tack of a sailing vessel, esp a square-rigger, by coming about so that the wind passes astern
the act of wearing or state of being worn
  1. anything designed to be worn: leisure wear
  2. (in combination): nightwear
deterioration from constant or normal use or action
the quality of resisting the effects of constant use
Derived Forms
wearer, noun
Word Origin
Old English werian; related to Old High German werien, Old Norse verja, Gothic vasjan


verb wears, wearing, wore, worn
(nautical) to tack by gybing instead of by going through stays
Word Origin
C17: from earlier weare, of unknown origin


a river in NE England, rising in NW Durham and flowing southeast then northeast to the North Sea at Sunderland. Length: 105 km (65 miles)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wear thin



Old English werian "to clothe, put on," from Proto-Germanic *wazjanan (cf. Old Norse verja, Old High German werian, Gothic gawasjan "to clothe"), from PIE *wes- "to clothe" (cf. Sanskrit vaste "he puts on," vasanam "garment;" Avestan vah-; Greek esthes "clothing," hennymi "to clothe," eima "garment;" Latin vestire "to clothe;" Welsh gwisgo, Breton gwiska; Old English wæstling "sheet, blanket;" Hittite washshush "garments," washanzi "they dress").

The Germanic forms "were homonyms of the vb. for 'prevent, ward off, protect' (Goth. warjan, O.E. werian, etc.), and this was prob. a factor in their early displacement in most of the Gmc. languages" [Buck]. Shifted from a weak verb (past tense and past participle wered) to a strong one (past tense wore, past participle worn) in 14c. on analogy of rhyming strong verbs such as bear and tear.

Secondary sense of "use up, gradually damage" (late 13c.) is from effect of continued use on clothes. To be the worse for wear is attested from 1782; noun phrase wear and tear is first recorded 1660s.


"action of wearing" (clothes), mid-15c., from wear (v.). Meaning "what one wears" is 1570s. To be the worse for wear is attested from 1782; noun phrase wear and tear is first recorded 1660s, implying the sense "process of being degraded by use."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with wear thin

wear thin

Be weakened or diminished gradually, as in My patience is wearing thin. [ Late 1800s ]
Become less convincing, acceptable, or popular, as in His excuses are wearing thin. [ First half of 1990s ]
Both usages transfer the thinning of a physical object, such as cloth, to nonmaterial characteristics.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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