\ ˈself , Southern also ˈsef \
plural selves\ˈselvz, Southern alsoˈsevz \

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

Having an eczema flare-up is like taking a master class in self-control. Korin Miller, SELF, "What Causes Eczema, Anyway?," 13 July 2018 Chronic stress also weakens a child’s cognitive functions that help them exercise self-control, problem-solving skills and other executive functions. WSJ, "As Border Separations Drag, Kids Internalize the Dread," 13 July 2018 When Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla, called analysts boring boneheads on a conference call in May, investors saw it as a lack of self-control. The Economist, "Life as you know it is IPOver," 12 July 2018 But Russian toddlers’ inclination to express positive emotions had no such relationship to self-control. Samuel Putnam, Washington Post, "Russians don’t smile much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you," 30 June 2018 Krystal Glover, as the teacher, has to hold her cards closer to her chest at the start but creates a layered character as her feelings are challenged and self-control begins to wane. Matthew J. Palm,, "Slow to build, 'Gidion's Knot' pays off in tangle of wrenching emotions," 28 June 2018 That loss of self control has sent the back of the bullpen into chaos again. Ann Killion,, "Giants’ search for a closer is wide open," 28 June 2018 According to a survey conducted as part of the new study, most adults think children have less self-control now than children did 50 years ago. Ian Haydon,, "Despite what parents might think, kids have gotten better at self-control," 27 June 2018 Meanwhile, thousands of villagers and residents of Maiduguri took up machetes or handmade muskets and joined a self-defence militia, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), that held the gates of the city. The Economist, "The fight against Islamic State is moving to Africa," 14 July 2018

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

9 Sep 2018

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 \
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 \
plural selves\ˈselvz \

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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