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If I have a sentence like: ... was an old, ugly, half-blind ...

Does it mean 50% vision in both eyes? Or does it mean complete blindness in any one eye? Or does it not really mean anything - just poor eyesight? We were discussing this sentence in class today and this question came up, it's a serious question though it sounds stupid.

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    It means just poor eyesight. – Dan Bron Mar 4 '16 at 14:19
  • I don't know if it's even possible to be exactly half blind on each eye. Just poor eyesight, is all. – NVZ Mar 4 '16 at 14:50
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    @NVZ One can have a particular kind of stroke or injury that injures a particular nerve that will cut off the vision from half of each eye (namely splitting the optic chiasm down the middle, or the lateral geniculate nucleus on either side). But... that's not what the OP is looking for. Unless it is, and then this is more about biology than English. – Mitch Mar 5 '16 at 20:12
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It means "poor vision in both eyes" or "generally poor vision".

"Half" doesn't mean "50%" here, it just means "significantly on the way to being". Similarly, "half dead" means "badly injured" (or perhaps just extremely tired, as an exaggeration), "half asleep" means "feeling very sleepy, or perhaps dozing but still conscious".

If someone had lost an eye, but could see well through the remaining one, you wouldn't call them "half-blind": they can see almost as well as someone with two eyes - the only difference is a smaller field of vision.

If someone had lost an eye, and had poor vision in the remaining one, you could still describe them as "half blind", but you could also say "He only had one eye, and that was half-blind.".

  • smaller field of vision and stereoscopy. – deadrat Mar 4 '16 at 18:53
  • Good point. I always wondered, outside of ball games, how much difference stereoscopy really makes. – Max Williams Mar 7 '16 at 8:35

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