Ware - wear

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Ware and wear, along with ware and where, form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.

  • Bridges gave two meanings of ware
    • the suffix -ware, as in the noun earthenware. This in fact derives from ware a collective noun, usually nowadays used in theplural form wares, to mean 'stock of articles which the holder intends to trade'. Other examples in the singular form may be seen, as in hardware, tableware and stoneware; it may become specific to certain manufacturers or areas of manufacture, such as Delf[t]ware (pottery from the Netherlands), Staffordshire ware and Wedgewood ware. In archaeology, "Distinctive ceramic products made of the same materials from a single production site or area, e.g. New Forest ware, or vessels having the same basic characteristics or technique of manufacture, e.g. colour‐coated ware" (Darvill, 2009). This sense, of 'a type of traded item', is most common, as in these examples, in the pottery business; but examples can also be found from the textile trade, as in millinery ware and homespun ware;
    • the clipping 'ware, short for beware or aware.
      • There is also a proper noun: Ware is a town in Hertfordshire, famous for its Great Bed, mentioned by Shakespeare and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • Wear may be a noun or a verb.
    • The verb 'to wear' (see also wear (irregular verb)) has two main strands of meaning:
      • 'to carry [a garment or garments] on the body', sometimes extended to other changes in the appearance, as 'she wears her hair up'; 'he wears a beard'
      • 'to have carried such a garment [and washed it, etc] until it shows its age, and is ceasing to be fit for purpose'. This is extended to wearing [something] out, i.e. rendering it unfit to be worn. This general strand of meaning is extended to all sorts of things: machinery, furniture, bodily organs and so on. For a person 'to be worn out is to be so tired as to be useless; a worn-out mechanical item should be replaced.
        • There is also a nautical term 'to wear [ship]', meaning 'to turn a [sailing] vessel on to the other tack by turning against the wind, by bringing her stern to windward' - an alternative to tacking (turning her through the wind, bringing her bows through the wind).
    • The non-count noun wear can be used in all the same ways as the verb. Two phrases may be of use to users of AWE: "the worse for wear" means 'having drunk too much [alcoholic liquor]'; 'fair wear and tear' is a legalistic term meaning 'the normal deterioration expected from normal use [of an item]'.
      • The proper noun that looks like Wear (the two are homographs) is NOT a homophone: it rhymes with 'ear' (see wear - weir). It is the name of the river on which the city of Durham is built, and which leads to the port of Monkwearmouth.