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

Examples of self in a Sentence

Noun 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. Adjective a self-red rose of a shade that hasn't been seen before
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun While some of Saieh’s problems were self-inflicted, others were out of his control. Gigi Zamora, Forbes, 17 June 2022 Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting Martin, 17, in a case that was among the first to set the stage for the nation’s recent racial reckoning — and that helped give birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. Timothy Bella, Washington Post, 17 June 2022 The statement said a Rwanda National Police officer fired in self-defense and the Congolese soldier was killed. Ignatius Ssuuna, ajc, 17 June 2022 The world can be a dangerous place, Jones warns, and so people have to be self-reliant. Erika D. Smith, Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2022 As Martinez and his friend walked away from the door, Larrama followed, and a confrontation began during which Martinez raised his arm in self-defense and then hit Larrama in the head with an aluminum beer bottle, prosecutors allege. Globe Staff,, 15 June 2022 It was accompanied by several NHL executives and a large staff that naturally included Phil Pritchard, curator and self-proclaimed Keeper of the Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Gene Myers, Detroit Free Press, 14 June 2022 Yost's office has issued a new manual online covering some of the basics of the law surrounded carrying a weapon and self-defense. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 13 June 2022 Like blasting your own foot off with a shotgun, this situation is entirely self-inflicted. Peter Debruge, Variety, 9 June 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for self

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near self

Seleucus I Nicator



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Statistics for self

Last Updated

19 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Self.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for self


\ 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 self (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

More from Merriam-Webster on self

Nglish: Translation of self for Spanish Speakers

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


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