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What exactly "a man apart" mean, or when is this formula used?

I know that there is a movie with "A man apart" in its title, but I have the feeling that it can be used in some situations, maybe when somebydy is left alone in a hard situation?

  • Do you have any more context aside from the movie title? – TheIntern Jul 30 '14 at 17:54
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I agree with FumbleFingers.

It's figurative usage, describing the man as distinct from his peers, but without qualifying exactly why - so as to make him appear intriguing.

The title alludes to an unknown story, which of course helps ticket sales because people are drawn to find out why he is "apart."

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You can have a look at some of these 268 written instances of "is a man apart" to get a better feel for how it's used.

Briefly, it normally just means a man who's not like most others (the usage is figurative, not to do with being physically distant from others). The label is usually either admiring or pitying, not "derogatory".


FWIW, I personally tend to think of a man apart as someone who's unable or unwilling to interact with others very much, or "in the normal way" (like Camus' Meursault in L’Étranger), rather than just someone very different from the average (such as an amazingly gifted musician or groundbreaking scientist).

So although I say apart is a figurative rather than a literal usage (such a man doesn't normally live a long way away from others), he probably doesn't actually spend much time in the close company of others.

  • +1 He is special and that "sets him apart" in his abilities or character. Likewise, that specialness "distances" or "sets him apart" from others in his interactions with people (makes it difficult to form close relationships). – Anaksunaman Jul 31 '14 at 2:19
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Whether or not the Vin Diesel film is referencing this is questionable but the original phrase that is most notable is the line from Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, where the character of Doctor Manette who was imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille becomes an unspoken hero among the french revolutionaries for his suffering. Here is the line:

"No man better known than he, in Paris at that day; no man in a stranger situation. Silent, humane, indispensable in hospital and in prison, using his art equally among assassins and victims, he was a man apart....a Spirit among mortals."

The Vin Diesel film was originally supposed to have another title but I think a clever and well-read executive probably suggested this title somewhere in production.

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