plural pronoun
them·​selves | \ t͟həm-ˈselvz, t͟hem- How to pronounce themselves (audio) \

Definition of themselves

1a : those identical ones that are they — compare they sense 1 used reflexively, for emphasis, or in absolute constructions nations that govern themselvesthey themselves were presentthemselves busy, they disliked idleness in others
b : himself or herself : himself, herself used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent nobody can call themselves oppressed— Leonard Wibberley
2 : their normal, healthy, or sane condition were themselves again after a night's rest

Can they be used as an indefinite subject?: Usage Guide

They used as an indefinite subject (sense 2) is sometimes objected to on the grounds that it does not have an antecedent. Not every pronoun requires an antecedent, however. The indefinite they is used in all varieties of contexts and is standard.

Can they, their, them, and themselves be used as singular pronouns?: Usage Guide

They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (such as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns. and every one to rest themselves betake — William Shakespeare I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly — Jane Austen it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy — W. H. Auden The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons. 'tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech — William Shakespeare a person can't help their birth — W. M. Thackeray no man goes to battle to be killed.—But they do get killed — G. B. Shaw The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. In recent years, these pronouns have also been adopted by individuals whose gender identity is nonbinary, as illustrated in sense 3d above.

First Known Use of themselves

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for themselves

Time Traveler

The first known use of themselves was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near themselves



the multitude

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Cite this Entry

“Themselves.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for themselves


them·​selves | \ t͟həm-ˈselvz How to pronounce themselves (audio) \

Kids Definition of themselves

: their own selves They enjoyed themselves. The students did it themselves.

More from Merriam-Webster on themselves

Nglish: Translation of themselves for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of themselves for Arabic Speakers


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