Definition of self in English:

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Pronunciation: /sɛlf/

noun (plural selves /sɛlvz/)

1A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action: our alienation from our true selves guilt can be turned against the self [mass noun]: language is an aspect of a person’s sense of self
More example sentences
  • The most important thing reading does for us, she concludes, is to give us a sense of our true selves, to reclaim us from the world.
  • Your friendship will be way more intriguing if you and your bud get in touch with your true inner selves.
  • This is the year in which people find their true selves.
ego, I, oneself, persona, person, identity, character, personality, psyche, soul, spirit, mind, intellect, inner man/woman/person, inner self, one's innermost feelings, one's heart of hearts
1.1 (one's self) One’s particular nature or personality; the qualities that make one individual or unique: by the end of the round he was back to his old self Paula seemed to be her usual cheerful self
More example sentences
  • She'll more than likely be back to her old self before you know it - and she should appreciate that you've been so cool about it.
  • Each person brings into the school his or her unique self.
  • It's great to see that he is now fully recovered and back to his old self.
1.2 [mass noun] One’s own interests or pleasure: to love in an unpossessive way implies the total surrender of self
More example sentences
  • For the unscrupulous, office might give access to large profits or the manipulation of power in the interests of self, friends, or family.
  • Political stability can equally only be achieved when political parties place national interests above self.
  • For some it is the pursuit of money and possessions, but for others it could be the love of self or pleasure, the god of fashion, driving ambition, or something else that controls our thinking and actions.

pronoun (plural selves /sɛlvz/)

1Oneself, in particular:
1.1 (with adjective one's self) Used ironically to refer to oneself or someone else: an article with a picture of my good self
More example sentences
  • I'm so sorry that so many people met your sorry selves one morning in July, and for the memories you have resurrected within me.
1.2Used on counterfoils, cheques, and other papers to refer to the holder or person who has signed: the uppermost counterfoil was marked ‘Self’


(Of a trimming or cover) of the same material and colour as the rest of the item: a button-through style with self belt
More example sentences
  • Other features include two end zippered compartments, front self pocket, and back mesh pocket.
  • Instead of the usual little back belt, why not add an entire placket that is laced up with tubes of self fabric?


[with object] chiefly Botany
1Self-pollinate; self-fertilize: (as noun selfing) the flowers never open and pollination is normally by selfing
More example sentences
  • Flowers of all species under study were selfed to determine the time taken by pollen tubes to reach the ovules.
  • Inflorescences of flowering plants were selfed and isolated with bags.
  • Although not in a significant proportion, seeds produced by selfing often show a bimodal weight distribution, with about one-quarter of seeds lighter than others (data not shown).
1.1 (usually as adjective selfed) Genetics Cause (an animal or plant) to breed with or fertilize one of the same hybrid origin or strain: progeny were derived from selfed crosses
More example sentences
  • In order to study the inheritance of cytomixis, the cytomictic plants were selfed and crossed as both male and female parents with one of the five control plants under controlled conditions.
  • From each of the heterozygotes for nonlethal chromosomes, 40 selfed progeny were obtained.
  • These 648 plants, representing selfed progenies of irradiated maize chromosome 9 monosomic addition line plants, were screened for the presence or absence of maize DNA.


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zelf and German selbe. Early use was emphatic, expressing the sense '(I) myself', '(he) himself', etc. The verb dates from the early 20th century.

Words that rhyme with self

elf, herself, himself, itself, myself, oneself, ourself, shelf, themself, thyself, yourself

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: self

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