\ ˈself How to pronounce self (audio) , Southern also ˈsef\
plural selves\ ˈselvz How to pronounce selves (audio) , Southern also  ˈsevz \

Definition of self

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a(1) : an individual's typical character or behavior her true self was revealed
(2) : an individual's temporary behavior or character his better self
b : a person in prime condition feel like my old self today
2 : the union of elements (such as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person
3 : personal interest or advantage
4a : the entire person of an individual
b : the realization or embodiment of an abstraction
5 : material that is part of an individual organism ability of the immune system to distinguish self from nonself



Definition of self (Entry 2 of 5)

: myself, himself, herself a check payable to self



Definition of self (Entry 3 of 5)

1a : having a single character or quality throughout specifically : having one color only a self flower
b : of the same kind (as in color, material, or pattern) as something with which it is used self trimming
2 obsolete : identical, same
3 obsolete : belonging to oneself : own


selfed; selfing; selfs

Definition of self (Entry 4 of 5)

transitive verb

1 : inbreed
2 : to pollinate with pollen from the same flower or plant

intransitive verb

: to undergo self-pollination

Definition of self- (Entry 5 of 5)

1a : oneself or itself self-supporting
b : of oneself or itself self-abasement
c : by oneself or itself self-propelled self-acting
2a : to, with, for, or toward oneself or itself self-consistent self-addressed self-love
b : of or in oneself or itself inherently self-evident
c : from or by means of oneself or itself self-fertile

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Examples of self in a Sentence


She showed her better self at the party. Her public self is very different from her private self. Philosophers have written about the conception of the self.


a self-red rose of a shade that hasn't been seen before
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Fact is, no single preserve holds a wolverine population large enough to be truly self-sustaining. National Geographic, "As wolverines battle to survive, warming poses a new threat," 11 July 2019 Quaid’s life went the way of a Shepard script a decade ago, transforming into a self-devouring, hallucinatory version of itself. Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, "Sam Shepard Saw It All Coming," 11 July 2019 The feeling opera left me with was something that went deeper, that bypasses thought and goes straight to the heart, to the core of the self. Constance Grady, Vox, "Opera companies are increasingly starting to take their productions out of the opera house," 9 July 2019 The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County decreased three-tenths of a cent today to $3.755, one day after rising by the same amount. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego County gas prices drop slightly," 8 July 2019 Sharing the tamales gives us a sense of self, of community. Emma Schwartz, Bon Appétit, "How a Prison Cooking Show Connects Residents to Life Outside," 2 July 2019 Chapter Seven: Maiden, Mother, Crone, Mothman, Hans Moleman Chapter Eight: Footnotes, For Legitimacy In which the author clearly feels obligated to badly summarize theory in order to offer a publicly defensible sense of self. David Canfield,, "Exclusive preview: Daniel Mallory Ortberg returns with new memoir-in-essays," 2 July 2019 And their path to a higher power followed a predictable pattern rooted in self-help. Laura M. Holson, Town & Country, "Marianne Williamson's Disciples Are Everywhere," 2 July 2019 From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "The first trailer for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a wild take on whodunits," 2 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'self.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of self


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1905, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for self


Middle English (intensive pronoun), from Old English; akin to Old High German selb, intensive pronoun, and probably to Latin suus one's own — more at suicide

Combining form

Middle English, from Old English, from self

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Statistics for self

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for self

The first known use of self was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for self



English Language Learners Definition of self

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the person that someone normally or truly is
: a particular part of your personality or character that is shown in a particular situation
: the personality or character that makes a person different from other people : the combination of emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc., that make a person different from others

English Language Learners Definition of self- (Entry 2 of 2)

: yourself or itself
: of yourself or itself
: by, to, with, for, or toward yourself or itself


\ ˈself How to pronounce self (audio) \
plural selves\ ˈselvz \

Kids Definition of self

1 : a person regarded as an individual apart from everyone else
2 : a special side of a person's character He isn't his cheerful self today.



Kids Definition of self-

1 : someone's or something's self self-governing
2 : of or by someone's or something's self self-control
3 : to, with, for, or toward someone's or something's self self-respect


\ ˈself How to pronounce self (audio) \
plural selves\ ˈselvz How to pronounce selves (audio) \

Medical Definition of self

1 : the union of elements (as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person
2 : material that is part of an individual organism ability of the immune system to distinguish self from nonself

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More from Merriam-Webster on self

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with self

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for self

Spanish Central: Translation of self

Nglish: Translation of self for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of self for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about self

Comments on self

What made you want to look up self? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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