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I learned the following sentence from The Economist (December 3rd-9th 2011).

... The implications seemed nothing short of revolutionary.

I've looked it up at this online dictionary. It is said that it means "of a lesser degree than". What's the function of this phrase here? How should I understand this sentence?

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"Nothing short of" is a common idiom.

"Short of", as you found, means "of a lesser degree than".

"Nothing short of" means "not at all of a lesser degree than".

"Nothing short of revolutionary" means "I am not exaggerating when I say this is revolutionary". It might indicate that the writer feels that if they merely wrote "revolutionary" on its own, the word would not have enough impact.

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It means exactly as the dictionary says.

short of = lesser than

... The implications seemed nothing less than revolutionary.

Or in other words,

The implications seemed quite revolutionary

The preceding use of "nothing" makes it a negative of "less than"

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  • @shinynewbilke, thanks. I thought it means "the implications seemed not revolutionary at all".:-) – Jack Dec 20 '11 at 13:19
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You can read it replacing part of the idiom with but to quickly get an idea:

The implications seemed nothing but revolutionary.

see:
President Barack Obama says the savage storms that swept through the South are nothing short of 'catastrophic.' [They are as bad as catastrophic.]

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  • I like your example. :) – Jack Dec 21 '11 at 0:21

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