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“Suit yourself”: Meaning, Usage & Examples

“Suit yourself”: Meaning, Usage & Examples
English is filled with expressions and phrases that only make sense depending on the context. For instance, when someone says “whatever,” they could mean one of several things.

They could be indifferent to the question asked, they might be dismissive towards the person asking the question, or they might be feeling plain hostility and irateness.

One way to figure out which meaning is intended is to listen to the speaker’s tone of voice and observe their body language.

Both of these things will tell you a lot about what was behind the expression.

Another, very similar expression is “suit yourself.”

Even though, at face value, the expression has a clear cut meaning, it can actually take on different meanings depending on the context.

 

What is the meaning of “suit yourself”?

At face value, “suit yourself” means that you should do whatever you want. However, in actuality, this expression can have either a positive or a negative connotation. When used positively, “suit yourself” is an invitation to the other person to do whatever seems right to them. Conversely, when used negatively, this phrase can be a means of ending a conversation or a way of signaling exasperation with someone else.

 

A closer look at “suit yourself”

As we just saw, “suit yourself” means to do as you please. However, its true use depends on the subtext. So, let’s see both its positive and negative usages.

 

Using “suit yourself” in a positive fashion

“Suit yourself” is just another way of telling someone to do what they want. So, it can be neutral or even positive.


Person #1: Hey, would it be possible to come to your party wearing a suit? I have this engagement afterward.

Person #2: Yeah, sure. Suit yourself. No pun intended.

In the above example, the host of the party is letting one of their guests know that they can come dressed as they please.

However, as you may have noticed, the word “suit” has different meanings, giving rise to a pun. In fact, it is “suit”’s versatility that gives rise to this expression in the first place as we shall soon see.

 

Using “suit yourself” in a negative fashion

The negative connotation is probably the more common one. You see, in this sense, “suit yourself” is used in exasperation.

It is a way of telling someone else, “I’m tired of this conversation so just do whatever it is you want to do.”


Person #1: I still think the problem should be best solved this way.

Person #2: Look, I’ve been trying to convince you that your solution is not optimal for the past twenty minutes, and I haven’t even made a dent. So, you know what? Just suit yourself.

 

In the above conversation, the second person is not only acknowledging their frustration with the first person’s obstinance, but they are also telling them to do what they please so long as it will end the conversation.

 

Origin of “suit yourself”

Even though some sources might claim that “suit yourself” started to show up around the 1800s in the American West, the phrase probably goes back farther than that.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “suit yourself” was used in Britain as far back as the 1500s, and it also meant to please oneself.

The word “suit” itself means to provide someone with something in such a manner as to please them.

Ergo, when you tell someone that something “doesn’t suit you,” you are saying that is doesn’t work for you or is unpleasing in some manner.

“Suit” also means to be agreeable or convenient.

Now, this definition of agreeableness or convenience can probably be traced back to “suit” the noun, which refers to a set of matching garments that had to fit the wearer.

Ergo, “suit yourself” isn’t a metaphor. It is a direct way of telling someone to please themselves.

Nevertheless, the phrase can be considered idiomatic if you consider the meaning of “suit” as matching garments that should fit.

In this case, you would be referring to the negative usage of the expression. Let me explain.

When you tell someone to “suit themselves” in a negative way, you are saying that you believe what they are doing is wrong and the result won’t turn out as they expect.

Similarly, if someone tried to make an actual suit for themselves, they probably would fail.

This is because tailoring a suit requires plenty of accurate measurements that are usually taken by someone other than the wearer.

A perfect demonstration of this interpretation can be seen in Christopher Moore’s “The Serpent of Venice.”

In the book, there is a quote that goes as follows “Fine, as the tailor said to the broke and naked knight, suit yourself.”

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