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[self] /sɛlf/
noun, plural selves.
a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality:
one's own self.
a person's nature, character, etc.:
his better self.
personal interest.
  1. the ego; that which knows, remembers, desires, suffers, etc., as contrasted with that known, remembered, etc.
  2. the uniting principle, as a soul, underlying all subjective experience.
being the same throughout, as a color; uniform.
being of one piece with or the same material as the rest:
drapes with a self lining.
Immunology. the natural constituents of the body, which are normally not subject to attack by components of the immune system (contrasted with nonself).
Obsolete, same.
pronoun, plural selves.
myself, himself, herself, etc.:
to make a check payable to self.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
to self-pollinate.
before 900; Middle English; Old English self, selfa; cognate with Dutch zelf, German selb-, Old Norse sjalfr, Gothic silba


a combining form of self and variously used with the meanings “of the self” (self-analysis) and “by oneself or itself” (self-appointed); and with the meanings “to, with, toward, for, on, in oneself” (self-complacent), “inherent in oneself or itself” (self-explanatory), “independent” (self-government), and “automatic” (self-operating). Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for self
  • self-resolution of drinking problems as a process of investing and reinvesting in self.
  • From political views to personal style, each of us has a set of preferences and beliefs that make up our sense of self.
  • More precisely, it's a self-service kiosk for ordering food.
  • But he seemed to stand apart, and eye this former self with scornful pitying, but half-envious curiosity.
  • For this self-trust, the reason is deeper than can be fathomed, darker than can be enlightened.
  • Acted drama requires surrender of one's self, sympathetic absorption in the play as it develops.
  • But all this majestic advance should not obscure the constant dangers from which self-government must be safeguarded.
  • There is a danger that putting the sea in the same sentence as the cold war too often is self-fulfilling.
  • As a matter of self-esteem he could not, and would not.
  • But he found that, in practice, it was not possible to leave all staff to their own self-motivating devices.
British Dictionary definitions for self


noun (pl) selves (sɛlvz)
the distinct individuality or identity of a person or thing
a person's usual or typical bodily make-up or personal characteristics: she looked her old self again
(rare) good self, good selves, a polite way of referring to or addressing a person (or persons), used following your, his, her, or their
one's own welfare or interests: he only thinks of self
an individual's consciousness of his own identity or being
(philosophy) the self, that which is essential to an individual, esp the mind or soul in Cartesian metaphysics; the ego
a bird, animal, etc, that is a single colour throughout, esp a self-coloured pigeon
(not standard) myself, yourself, etc: seats for self and wife
of the same colour or material: a dress with a self belt See also self-coloured
(obsolete) the same
Word Origin
Old English seolf; related to Old Norse sjālfr, Gothic silba, Old High German selb


combining form
of oneself or itself: self-defence, self-rule
by, to, in, due to, for, or from the self: self-employed, self-inflicted, self-respect
automatic or automatically: self-propelled
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for self

Old English self, seolf, sylf "one's own person, -self; own, same," from Proto-Germanic *selbaz (cf. Old Norse sjalfr, Old Frisian self, Dutch zelf, Old High German selb, German selb, selbst, Gothic silba), Proto-Germanic *selbaz "self," from PIE *sel-bho-, suffixed form of root *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of a sentence), also used in forms denoting the speaker's social group, "(we our-)selves" (see idiom).

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. [Alan Watts]
Its use in compounds to form reflective pronouns grew out of independent use in Old English. As a noun from early 14c.


word forming element indicating "oneself," also "automatic," from Old English use of self (pron.) in compounds, e.g. selfbana "suicide," selflice "self-love, pride, vanity, egotism," selfwill "free will."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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self in Medicine

self (sělf)
n. pl. selves (sělz)

  1. The total, essential, or particular being of a person; the individual.

  2. One's consciousness of one's own being or identity; the ego.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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self in Technology
A small, dynamically typed object-oriented language, based purely on prototypes and delegation. Self was developed by the Self Group at Sun Microsystems Laboratories, Inc. and Stanford University. It is an experimental exploratory programming language.
Release 2.0 introduces full source-level debugging of optimised code, adaptive optimisation to shorten compile pauses, lightweight threads within Self, support for dynamically linking foreign functions, changing programs within Self and the ability to run the experimental Self graphical browser under OpenWindows. Designed for expressive power and malleability, Self combines a pure, prototype-based object model with uniform access to state and behaviour. Unlike other languages, Self allows objects to inherit state and to change their patterns of inheritance dynamically. Self's customising compiler can generate very efficient code compared to other dynamically-typed object-oriented languages.
Version: 3.0 runs on Sun-3 (no optimiser) and Sun-4.
["Self: The Power of Simplicity", David Ungar et al, SIGPLAN Notices 22(12):227-242, OOPSLA '87, Dec 1987].
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Encyclopedia Article for self

the "I" as experienced by an individual. In modern psychology the notion of the self has replaced earlier conceptions of the soul

Learn more about self with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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