\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

The upcoming film tells the story of a teenager who blames a self-help writer for the death of her parents. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Movie roles up for grabs as film company says 'action' in Louisville," 10 July 2018 After that, Benton no longer believed this was self-defense. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, "Was alleged rape and shooting death investigation influenced by reality TV cameras?," 30 June 2018 Farquhar, 52, pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed self-defense when he was originally charged. Alicia Fabbre, Daily Southtown, "Ex-Monee mayor who was accused of breaking ump's jaw at youth baseball game pleads guilty to aggravated battery, records show," 29 June 2018 What are the main skills taught in these weekly self-defense classes? National Geographic, "Meet the 'Kickboxing Grannies' of Kenya's Most Dangerous Slum," 28 June 2018 For self-driving vehicle developers, that’s an unfortunate expectation. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "Home From the Honeymoon, the Self-Driving Car Industry Faces Reality," 13 July 2018 Beginning now, and for the next two years, the Cancer-Capricorn eclipses will be activating the top (career) and bottom (home) of your birth chart, marking a critical time for both professional growth and self-awareness. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What July's Aries Horoscope Means for You," 29 June 2018 Now, though, Ziegler is looking like his younger self. Mike Persak,, "Marlins' Brad Ziegler turns around season, possibly career, with mechanical change," 6 July 2018 Having an eczema flare-up is like taking a master class in self-control. Korin Miller, SELF, "What Causes Eczema, Anyway?," 13 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

4 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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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