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

And, as an extra bonus, there's even something for your pup, because dogs need self-care, too. Lauren Swanson, Allure, "All the Beauty Products From Oprah's Epic Favorite Things List for 2018," 8 Nov. 2018 Courtesy Sensible 4 Muji—the Japanese lifestyle brand known for satisfyingly minimalist, affordable, and functional products—is now a self-driving car designer. Diana Budds, Curbed, "Muji just designed an autonomous shuttle bus," 2 Nov. 2018 For this reason, the House Beautiful Whole Home Project sought to make a concept home that was truly a sanctuary of self-care—for every member of your family. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "If You Have A Pet, You Need This Doggy Room," 25 Oct. 2018 Laurie went full Sarah Connor after facing Michael and spent her daughter’s entire childhood training her in weaponry and self-defense on the off chance that Michael might one day return. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The new Halloween is a slasher movie with an actual message," 19 Oct. 2018 Japan's military, which has spent decades focused solely on self-defense, is making a new kind of weapon to deliver an explosive payload at supersonic speeds. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Japan Is Developing a Unique Supersonic Glide Weapon," 16 Oct. 2018 The experience is designed to improve skills, build self-esteem, and empower girls through skiing. Discover Magazine, "The Great Snow of Beaver Creek," 3 Oct. 2018 Actress and Garnier brand ambassador Mandy Moore explains why self-care isn't selfish — and is actually the key to looking and feeling your best. As Told To Lauren Balsamo, Redbook, "'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore Shares Her Secret to Looking and Feeling Her Best," 21 Sep. 2018 The addition of a heat-seeking missile to the Reaper's load would give it at least some sort of self-defense option. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Top drone: Reaper scores drone kill in air-to-air missile test," 20 Sep. 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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Learn More about self

Statistics for self

Last Updated

18 Nov 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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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).


noxious or harmful

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