McKendrick. Contract Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (2018 8 ed). p 752.

An infamous example of this is provided by the case of Arcos Ltd v. E A Ronaasen and Son [1933] AC 470. The parties entered into a contract for the sale of timber staves cut to a thickness of 1/2 inch. The purchasers alleged the sellers had breached the contract as the staves were of the wrong thickness, being 9/16 of an inch thick. The House of Lords held that the purchasers were entitled to reject the timber. Lord Atkin stated (at p. 479) that:

If the written contract specifies conditions of weight, measurement and the like, those conditions must be complied with. A ton does not mean about a ton, or a yard about a yard. Still less when you descend to minute measurements does 1/2 inch mean about 1/2 inch. If the seller wants a margin he must and in my experience does stipulate for it.

The buyers were held to be entitled to reject the timber notwithstanding the fact that their motive for trying to get out of the contract was that it had turned out to be a bad bargain for them as a result of a fall in the market price of timber. The House of Lords were aware of the reasons for the buyers’ wish to get out of the contract but were of the view that they were irrelevant.

Pretend that Atkin had commenced with inch first. Then in the sentence beneath, would 'still less' become 'still more'?

1/2 inch mean about 1/2 inch. Still ? when you ascend to larger measurements do a ton does not mean about a ton, or a yard about a yard.

I read the OED :

much less (also far less, still less): used to characterize a statement or suggestion as still more unacceptable or inapposite than one that has been already denied.

  • It is unclear what is being asked here. If one were to say '1/2 inch mean[s] about 1/2 inch' one would be saying the opposite of what the quoted paragraph is saying: the author's point is that 1/2 inch means (in the relevant context) exactly 1/2 inch, that it does not mean about 1/2 inch. It might help if the sentence at issue is expanded to 'Still less does it mean something approximate, when you descend . . . '
    – jsw29
    May 11, 2019 at 23:12
  • 1
    What is the point of manipulating at length an old text? The legal point is that the contract terms govern whether or not the reason for rejection of the product is something else.
    – Xanne
    May 11, 2019 at 23:21
  • @Xanne I'm asking out of curiosity.
    – user50720
    May 12, 2019 at 0:12
  • No, it would not become still more. We use this when we want to say that one thing has a lot of something but another thing has even more. Here the meaning of the original passage is that there isn't much tolerance when the units are large, but there is even less when they are small. The converse of that would be a concessive clause, like while the tolerance may be greater in the case of larger units of measure, it is nevertheless limited. If you used still more you would be saying that there is a lot of tolerance when the units are small and even more when they are large...
    – user339660
    May 12, 2019 at 22:51

1 Answer 1


As per the OED definition you provided, the idiom "still less" is not referring to physical measurements, but rather it refers to issues of appropriateness, ethics, morality, and so on.

So in the discussion of the legal decision, the use of "still less" would not change whether the large measurements or the small measurements were put first. The point is not the sizes, it's that the mis-measured products were unacceptable and a breach of contract.

As an additional (and maybe clearer) example of usage, one could say:

It's bad enough that you overcharged a customer for the items they bought -- still less should you have done it when the customer was your own mother!

The phrase "still more" is also common in English, but it is used as a synonym for "further."


still more / further

used for emphasizing that an amount, increase, reduction, etc. is even more than the amount already mentioned.

Fuel prices could rise still more in the coming months.

  • Two downvotes, no explanation from either?
    – JDM-GBG
    May 29, 2019 at 0:45
  • I didn't downvote you.
    – user50720
    Aug 1, 2019 at 6:08

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