I am wondering what "a little less himself" means in the following sentences:

I notice Will and Dad sizing each other up surreptitiously. In Dad’s company, oddly, Will seems a little diminished, a little less himself. Looking at him, in his pressed shirt and chinos, I’m worried that to Dad he might seem privileged and glib, very much the ex-public schoolboy.

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, (2020) Chapter 14

In this part, I am wondering whether "a little less himself" means that he looks like a "lesser version of himself," or that he looks "less like himself," like he looks like a different person.

  • 1
    Has the narrator changed. In this extract, is it Jules narrating, not Hannah.
    – James K
    Apr 17 at 9:52
  • Dear @JamesK, thank you very much for the comment. Yes, it is Jules, not Hannah, who is narrating. I am sorry my summary was somewhat dubious. I edited the summary to make it clear that the narrator here is Jules. Apr 17 at 11:12
  • "my summary was somewhat dubious" - IMO, in the broad context of the cited excerpt, it seems to be somewhat redundant too:)
    – Victor B.
    Apr 17 at 11:50
  • 1
    I don’t see why this question should be closed. The expression is an idiom. Idioms can be researched, true enough. But so can half the questions on the site that appear relatively uncontroversial among the community. I’ve deleted much excess matter from the question and re-tagged it. Apr 20 at 2:53

If someone is unhappy, worried, or feeling unwell, they may appear subdued. They may not behave in a way that friends or relatives expect, for example, a happy, loud, and cheerful person may seem quiet. In this this situation people may say something like 'he is not himself today', 'not his usual self', or 'less than himself'. When the person recovers from illness, worry, sadness, etc, people may say 'he is more himself', or 'he is back to his old self'.

not be/seem/feel himself

not to be, seem, or feel as happy or as healthy as usual:

Is Tom all right? He doesn't seem quite himself this morning.

Himself (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Dear Michael Harvey, thank you very much for the explanation. Then, just to make sure if I understood correctly, may I take it to mean that "a little less himself" here could mean both "he less resembles himself" and "he is the worse version of himself" in that it means "he is not his usual self"...? Apr 18 at 8:36
  • 1
    @PastaAddict - he is a little less himself - his behaviour or manner seems a little less lively, normal, happy, alert, responsive, optimistic, talkative, (etc) than it usually is, so that he gives the impression of being sick, worried, unhappy, distracted, etc. Apr 18 at 8:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.