"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[th uh m-selvz, th em-] /ðəmˈsɛlvz, ˌðɛm-/
plural pronoun
an emphatic form of them or they:
The authors themselves left the theater. The contract was written by the partners themselves.
a reflexive form of they (used as the direct or indirect object of a verb or the object of a preposition):
They washed themselves quickly. The painters gave themselves a week to finish the work. The noisy passengers drew attention to themselves.
(used after an indefinite singular antecedent in place of the definite masculine himself or the definite feminine herself):
No one who ignores the law can call themselves a good citizen.
(used in place of they or them after as, than, or but):
no soldiers braver than themselves; As for the entertainers, everyone got paid but themselves.
their usual, normal, characteristic selves:
After a hot meal and a few hours' rest, they were themselves again.
Origin of themselves
1300-50; them + selves; replacing themself, Middle English thamself; see self
Usage note
See myself. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for themselves
  • Drama allows them to distance themselves from painful situations.
  • The incidents themselves are not what generates the debate on my blog.
  • Many animals seem able to treat their illnesses themselves.
  • Dolphins have an ability to recognize and examine themselves in mirrors, scientists say.
  • Billions of years ago, organic chemicals in the primordial soup somehow organized themselves into the first organisms.
  • Various types of boxwood lend themselves to different uses.
  • Snarling relief pitchers see themselves as baseball's meanest breed.
  • Universities are serving themselves here as well, so that they can trumpet how diverse they are.
  • But his followers' desire to segregate themselves is not unusual.
  • Elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors, according to a new study.
British Dictionary definitions for themselves


  1. the reflexive form of they or them
  2. (intensifier): the team themselves voted on it
(preceded by a copula) their normal or usual selves: they don't seem themselves any more
(not standard) Also themself. a reflexive form of an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybody: everyone has to look after themselves
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 themselves

c.1500, standard from 1540s, replacing themself (cf. theirself). Themself returned late 20c. as some writers took to avoiding himself with gender-neutral someone, anyone, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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