When talking about conditions of collectibles or other stuff, I have read some days ago "well-worn" and I'm not sure how to interpret it. I actually see 2 different ways to interpret it, which would mean even quite the opposite of each other.

One way I see would be:

It was worn well, so when it was used, and was handled carefully(well) with. So this would mean the condition of the item is still fine.

Or the other way:

Well as an expression for frequency, so it means it has bean worn a lot, what would lead to an condition with a lot of signs of wear and tear.

So what's the way it should be interpreted? And what are the indications that (if so) exclude the other way?

1 Answer 1


Well-worn has the meaning of often used, not new, and in the extreme threadbare.

Clothing which is new has a certain feeling of crispness and stiffness. After it has been broken in, greets tend to have a different more comfortable feel about them and hang better on the wearer.

After clothes have been worn for a time, certain discolourations may appear in stress points, for example in the elbows or knees, or possibly some fraying in the button holes, and these would make the garment considered to be well-worn.

The owner has worn the garment well (often).

This may occur through routine usage over some passage of time, or because it is a favourite of the owner and worn fairly often, or both.

Well-worn does not have the meaning of being worn in an attractive way in the same way that well-spoken means a person is eloquent. Phrasing used to convey that idea might be

It's you
It suits you
It becomes you
You look good in that

meaning something was worn well (verb + adverb) but not necessarily well-worn(adjective)

He wore that tuxedo very well
He wore that uniform well

Could be said about the handsome appearance of the wearer, however neither garment would probably be called well-worn

The actor wore the well-worn tweed jacket very well as a professor.

  • Well I actually still don't understand how it excludes the other way. But thats probably a problem on my site and not in your explanation. Anyway, I'll just wait a little bit more before accepting an answer. Maybe some one else can get me on to it :P +1 anyway. Nice explanation.
    – Zaibis
    Jan 11, 2016 at 9:12
  • @Zaibis Do you have a quote or passage for the other way?
    – Peter
    Jan 11, 2016 at 9:14
  • The Point is I don't have a passage for any way, since I wrote this OP as I wasn't able to make the difference(if there is one). So I can't say even if I had oen. But what I'm asking for is: I presented 2 ways I would have understood it. And I'm asking for what is the correct one and why you couldn't understand it in the opposite way I presented it. I'm not saying your explanation for this is unsatisfying. I just say I don't get it what you explain regarding the second part.
    – Zaibis
    Jan 11, 2016 at 9:22
  • There is an expression: well-spoken which means eloquent or that a person spoke well. Well-worn is not the same way, it does not mean worn well meaning an attractive/fashionable way. I'm guessing your confusion is that well-worn (worn a lot) sounds like worn well (worn in a good way). They have two totally different meanings (as you point out) but worn well would not be written well-worn. Does that help?
    – Peter
    Jan 11, 2016 at 9:29
  • Kind of helps. What I'm asking now for is, whats the reason (like a rule or so) that well-worn wouldn't be understood as worn well? If it is just as it is, because it is. Than I'm fine with it. But I'm just waiting a bit as maybe some one can say something to it. If not, I'll accept your answer as it is right now :)
    – Zaibis
    Jan 11, 2016 at 9:34

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