the

1 [stressed thee; unstressed before a consonant thuh; unstressed before a vowel thee]
definite article
1.
(used, especially before a noun, with a specifying or particularizing effect, as opposed to the indefinite or generalizing force of the indefinite article a or an ): the book you gave me; Come into the house.
2.
(used to mark a proper noun, natural phenomenon, ship, building, time, point of the compass, branch of endeavor, or field of study as something well-known or unique): the sun; the Alps; the Queen Elizabeth; the past; the West.
3.
(used with or as part of a title): the Duke of Wellington; the Reverend john smith.
4.
(used to mark a noun as indicating the best-known, most approved, most important, most satisfying, etc.): the skiing center of the U.S.; If you're going to work hard, now is the time.
5.
(used to mark a noun as being used generically): The dog is a quadruped.
6.
(used in place of a possessive pronoun, to note a part of the body or a personal belonging): He won't be able to play football until the leg mends.
7.
(used before adjectives that are used substantively, to note an individual, a class or number of individuals, or an abstract idea): to visit the sick; from the sublime to the ridiculous.
8.
(used before a modifying adjective to specify or limit its modifying effect): He took the wrong road and drove miles out of his way.
9.
(used to indicate one particular decade of a lifetime or of a century): the sixties; the gay nineties.
10.
(one of many of a class or type, as of a manufactured item, as opposed to an individual one): Did you listen to the radio last night?
11.
enough: He saved until he had the money for a new car. She didn't have the courage to leave.
12.
(used distributively, to note any one separately) for, to, or in each; a or an: at one dollar the pound.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English, Old English, uninflected stem of the demonstrative pronoun. See that


As shown above, the pronunciation of the definite article the changes, primarily depending on whether the following sound is a consonant or a vowel. Before a consonant sound the pronunciation is [thuh] the book, the mountain [thuh-book, thuh-moun-tn]. Before a vowel sound it is usually [thee] sometimes [thi] the apple, the end [thee or thi-ap-uhl, thee or thi-end]. As an emphatic form (“I didn't say a book—I said the book.”) or a citation form (“The word the is a definite article.”), the usual pronunciation is [thee] although in both of these uses of the stressed form, [thee] is often replaced by [thuh] especially among younger speakers.
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the

2 [before a consonant thuh; before a vowel thee]
adverb
1.
(used to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree and to signify “in or by that,” “on that account,” “in or by so much,” or “in some or any degree”): He's been on vacation and looks the better for it.
2.
(used in correlative constructions to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree, in one instance with relative force and in the other with demonstrative force, and signifying “by how much … by so much” or “in what degree … in that degree”): the more the merrier; The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English; Old English thē, thȳ, instrumental case of demonstrative pronoun. See that, lest

the-

variant of theo- before a vowel: thearchy.
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the1 ((stressed or emphatic) ðiː, (unstressed before a consonant) ðə, (unstressed before a vowel) ðɪ)
 
determiner
1.  Compare a used preceding a noun that has been previously specified: the pain should disappear soon; the man then opened the door
2.  Compare a used with a qualifying word or phrase to indicate a particular person, object, etc, as distinct from others: ask the man standing outside; give me the blue one
3.  used preceding certain nouns associated with one's culture, society, or community: to go to the doctor; listen to the news; watch the television
4.  used preceding present participles and adjectives when they function as nouns: the singing is awful; the dead salute you
5.  used preceding titles and certain uniquely specific or proper nouns, such as place names: the United States; the Honourable Edward Brown; the Chairman; the moon
6.  used preceding a qualifying adjective or noun in certain names or titles: William the Conqueror; Edward the First
7.  used preceding a noun to make it refer to its class generically: the white seal is hunted for its fur; this is good for the throat; to play the piano
8.  used instead of my, your, her, etc, with parts of the body: take me by the hand
9.  (usually stressed) the best, only, or most remarkable: Harry's is the club in this town
10.  used with proper nouns when qualified: written by the young Hardy
11.  another word for per, esp with nouns or noun phrases of cost: fifty pence the pound
12.  facetious, derogatory often, or my; our: the wife goes out on Thursdays
13.  used preceding a unit of time in phrases or titles indicating an outstanding person, event, etc: match of the day; player of the year
 
[Middle English, from Old English thē, a demonstrative adjective that later superseded (masculine singular) and sēo, sio (feminine singular); related to Old Frisian thi, thiu, Old High German der, diu]

the2 (ðə, ðɪ)
 
adv
1.  (often foll by for) used before comparative adjectives or adverbs for emphasis: she looks the happier for her trip
2.  used correlatively before each of two comparative adjectives or adverbs to indicate equality: the sooner you come, the better; the more I see you, the more I love you
 
[Old English thī, thӯ, instrumental case of the1 and that; related to Old Norse thī, Gothic thei]

the-
 
combining form
a variant of theo-

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

the
late O.E. þe, nominative masculine form of the demonstrative pronoun and adjective. After c.950, it replaced earlier se (masc.), seo (fem.), þæt (neut.), and probably represents se altered by the þ- form which was used in all the masc. oblique cases (see below). O.E. se is from
PIE base *so- "this, that" (cf. Skt. sa, Avestan ha, Gk. ho, he "the," Ir., Gael. so "this"). For the þ- forms, see that. The s- forms were entirely superseded in English by mid-13c., excepting dialectal survival slightly longer in Kent. O.E. used 10 different words for "the" (see table, below), but did not distinguish "the" from "that." That survived for a time as a definite article before vowels (cf. that one or that other). Adv. use in the more the merrier, the sooner the better, etc. is a relic of O.E. þy, originally the instrumentive case of the neuter demonstrative þæt (see that).

Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural
Nom. se seo þæt þa
Acc. þone þa þæt þa
Gen. þæs þære þæs þara
Dat. þæm þære þæm þæm
Inst. þy, þon -- þy, þon --
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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