O.E. wæstling "sheet, blanket;" Hittite washshush "garments," washanzi "they dress"). The Gmc. 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 pp. wered) to a strong one (past tense wore, p.p. worn) in 14c. on analogy of rhyming strong verbs such as bear
. Secondary sense of "use up, gradually damage" (c.1275) is from effect of continued use on clothes. To be the worse for wear is attested from 1782; wear and tear is first recorded 1666.