In Icelandic, there is an expression "að viðra sig", using the analogy of clothes that smell of closet and the act of taking them outside to get some of that old smell out of them, that is used to describe a recluse who finally spends some time with other people.

While I don´t expect the same analogy to be used in English, is there any other idiom/expression that refers in any way to the same act/effort?


I was not as clear as I could be with the original question... The act I am trying to pinpoint is a one-off effort to socialize, rather than a permanent change from recluse to non-recluse. Using the Icelandic expression as an example, it would be used by a parent about having forced a kid who is a World of Warldcraft addict to participate in a family dinner. Again, I am not looking for an exact corresponding expression, but hoping to get as close as possible.


In the comments to this question, a few expressions were mentioned but it was pointed out that they are not intended for people: "De-mothball" - used for military equipment "given an airing" - used for papers and ideas that are brought back into discussion after neglect

While difficult to use for my purposes, they might be useful in a different situation as long as you take into account the weirdness of referring to people in this way... so i thought I'd mention them here. Thanks to mplungjan and 'Colin Fine'

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    Do you mean somebody is finally coming out of his/her shell? Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 13:51
  • Also coming out of her cocoon.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 13:53
  • 1
    De-mothball come to mind. Even though it refers to military equipment, it is very close to what you describe
    – mplungjan
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 14:00
  • 1
    re-joining the world...
    – mplungjan
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 14:49
  • 1
    An idea, or a created work such as a song or an article, that has been neglected or forgotten might be given an airing in an exact parallel to your phrase; but I don't think it would get used about a person.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 14:54

8 Answers 8


I'm a fan of "emerged from his/her cave." It seems to fit the concept described in the updated version of your question, of someone who is making a rare foray into society, rather than entering society on a permanent and ongoing basis.

  • I think this better fits the revised question indicating that it may be a temporary emergence than some of the other answers do. Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 9:27

EDIT: Changing my original answer in view of the OP's updated and revised question.

He's emerging from his den/shell/cave/burrow

Seem to be the most appropriate, I asked a few native speakers and nearly all came up with "emerging from his + (noun)" as first suggested by user867.

Google Ngram seems to suggest that emerging from his den is the least commonly used expression, but if you click on the actual results you'll find that the "emerging from his den" is commonly used for bears and people, whereas emerging from his shell can also refer to tortoises, turtles and snails, so depending on the person's physical traits you could opt for either.

  • Thanks, not sure why you've received down-votes, but this is all very useful stuff Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 12:00

There is a word for it too - reclaim

reclaim v.3 To save (a person) from an undesirable state, course of action, etc.; (also) to bring back or restore (a person) to a better or more acceptable way of life or condition. OED has many example sentences:

A young man, who was reclaimed from a very dissolute course of life.

Here is Calvin, reclaimed—from substance abuse, from financial uncertainty—so strong now.

The Pink Floyd song comes to mind coming back to life. The closest English parallel to your phrase is breath of fresh air. Although this is not what you are looking for, a closely related phrase breathe new life into might be relevant.

  • ‘Reclaim’ means something quite different from the Icelandic expression. I very much doubt I'd be understood if I said, “You've been cooped up at home studying for your exams for two months now, you need to reclaim (yourself).” Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 19:58
  • Quite right - you wouldn't want to use the word in that context. There is a specific definition that applies - as quoted above.
    – user49727
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 22:37
  • But in the examples above, it looks like “reclaim” is nearly synonymous with “rescue”, which doesn’t answer the question, either. Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 18:44

"Let your hair down" captures the spirit of your request.

From wisegeek: The phrase “let your hair down” is an idiom that means to relax or let go of inhibitions. Most language experts agree that the idiom is from the time period when it was only proper for women to wear their hair pinned up on the head in public. They were only allowed to let their hair down to hang naturally when alone, either when bathing or at bedtime. Letting one's hair down, at that time, was reserved for moments when relaxing and behaving less properly were acceptable.

Most of the time, the idiom is not intended to mean “relaxing” as in calming, soothing, or otherwise stress-relieving situations such as quietly sitting to read a book or getting a massage. Instead, it more accurately refers to relaxing social rules and letting go of inhibitions that would normally hold a person's behavior in check. For example, it would be a correct use of the idiom to say that, halfway through a party, you let your hair down and danced for a few songs, when you had been previously too embarrassed to try.


There's a few actually.

The simplest one would be a person "opening up", which goes equally for any individual trying to become more sociable. You would say "that person has really opened up!" But mind that it can also mean opening up to new ideas, rather than being exclusively social.

Another good one is "coming out", which is usually paired with "coming out of his/her shell" or "coming out if his/her cocoon". But be careful with this, because it can also mean "coming out" as a homosexual (usually paired with "Coming out of the closet"). If you pair it with the shell/cocoon metaphor though, it should be clear what you are trying to say.

To clarify, these are more permanent concepts. You may be looking for a more temporary or one-off event than I have described here.

  • Thank you for your answer! I'm afraid I was not entirely clear in my question, as I seem to have indicated I was aiming for a permanent change in attitude, rather than a one-off effort. I guess that one could "attempt to open up", but that would be referring to an intention to change state permanently. The expression I am aiming for is a single act, that does not say whether there will be other follow-up acts. I've revised the question accordingly. Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 14:07

If one were of a poetic bent, it might be described as "emerging from the chrysalis", depending upon the precise context.

  • Thank you for your answer! I'm afraid I was not entirely clear in my question, as I seem to have indicated I was aiming for a permanent change in attitude, rather than a one-off effort. You don't tend to go back into your crysalis, so this would be a permanent change. I've revised the question accordingly. Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 14:07

I feel comfortable saying, “popped [or poked] his head up”, although I can’t find much evidence for its widespread usage.  This can refer to a ground-dwelling animal (e.g., a gopher, groundhog, or mole) sticking its head out of its hole (i.e., tunnel system).  It can also refer to a person with her head “buried” or “down” in some reading material (or an electronic device) lifting her head to interact with the environment (including other people).  I also found “put/stick your head above the parapet” on The Free Dictionary, but (1) I don’t consider that common usage, and (2) it’s not the same thing; it’s more like “sticking one’s neck out”.

Wiktionary claims that “prairie dog” can be used as a verb with this meaning, but I’ve never heard that, either.

This is not to be confused with “holding one’s head up”, “raise/rear its (ugly) head”, or “poke my head in”.


Consider "tear loose" and "break away," used figuratively, as in:

I see you finally got to tear loose/break away from your room (World of Warcraft, etc.). Welcome back to society/Planet Earth!

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