O.E. The feminine, hio, was replaced in early M.E. by forms from other stems (see she
), while the h- wore off O.E. neut. hit to make modern it. The P.Gmc. root is also the source of the first element in Ger. heute "today," lit. "the day" (cf. O.E. heodæg). Slang he-man "masculine fellow" is from 1832, originally among U.S. pioneers.
|case ||SINGULAR ||- ||- ||PLURAL |
|- ||masc. ||neut. ||fem. ||(all genders) |
|nom. ||he ||hit ||heo, hio ||hie, hi |
|acc. ||hine ||hit ||hie, hi ||hie, hi |
|gen. ||his ||his ||hire ||hira, heora |
|dat. ||him ||him ||hire ||him, heom |they
c.1200, from O.N. þeir, originally masculine plural demonstrative pronoun, from P.Gmc. *thai, nom. pl. pronoun, from PIE *to- (see that
). Gradually replaced O.E. hi, hie, plurals of he, heo, hit (see he, she, it) by c.1400. Colloquial use for "anonymous people in authority"
is attested from 1886.
O.E. hit, neut. nom. & acc. of third pers. sing. pronoun, from P.Gmc. demonstrative base *khi- (cf. O.Fris. hit, Du. het, Goth. hita "it"), which is also the root of he. As gender faded in M.E., it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before." The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized
position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," "is only heard in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1611; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, meaning "the one who must tag the others" is attested from 1842.
c.1154, probably evolved from O.E. seo, sio (acc. sie), fem. of demonstrative pronoun se "the." The O.E. word for "she" was heo, hio, however by 13c. the pronunciation of this had converged by phonetic evolution with he "he," so the fem. demonstrative pronoun probably was used in its place (cf. similar
development in Du. zij, Ger. sie, Gk. he, etc.). The original h- survives in her. A relic of the O.E. pronoun is in Manchester-area dial. oo "she." She-devil "difficult woman" first recorded 1840.