plural pronoun, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
nominative plural of he, she, and it.
people in general: They say he's rich.
(used with an indefinite singular antecedent in place of the definite masculine he or the definite feminine she ): Whoever is of voting age, whether they are interested in politics or not, should vote.

1150–1200; Middle English < Old Norse their they (replacing Old English (e)); cognate with Old English thā, plural of thæt that

Long before the use of generic he was condemned as sexist, the pronouns they, their, and them were used in educated speech and in all but the most formal writing to refer to indefinite pronouns and to singular nouns of general personal reference, probably because such nouns are often not felt to be exclusively singular: If anyone calls, tell them I'll be back at six. Everyone began looking for their books at once. Such use is not a recent development, nor is it a mark of ignorance. Shakespeare, Swift, Shelley, Scott, and Dickens, as well as many other English and American writers, have used they and its forms to refer to singular antecedents. Already widespread in the language (though still rejected as ungrammatical by some), this use of they, their, and them is increasing in all but the most conservatively edited American English. This increased use is at least partly impelled by the desire to avoid the sexist implications of he as a pronoun of general reference. See also he1. Unabridged


1 [hee; unstressed ee]
pronoun, nominative he, possessive his, objective him; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
the male person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that male.
anyone (without reference to sex); that person: He who hesitates is lost.
noun, plural hes.
any male person or animal; a man: hes and shes.
male (usually used in combination): a he-goat.

before 900; Middle English, Old English (masculine nominative singular); cognate with Dutch hij, Old Saxon hē, Old High German her he; see his, him, she, her, it1

Traditionally, the masculine singular pronouns he1, his, and him have been used generically to refer to indefinite pronouns like anyone, everyone, and someone (Everyone who agrees should raise his right hand) and to singular nouns that can be applied to either sex (painter, parent, person, teacher, writer, etc.): Every writer knows that his first book is not likely to be a bestseller. This generic use is often criticized as sexist, although many speakers and writers continue the practice.
Those who object to the generic use of he have developed various ways of avoiding it. One is to use he/she or she/he (or he or she or she or he) or the appropriate case forms of these pairs: Everyone who agrees should raise his or her (or her or his or his/her or her/his) right hand. Forms blending the feminine and masculine pronouns, as s/he, have not been widely adopted, probably because of confusion over how to say them.
Another solution is to change the antecedent pronoun or noun from singular to plural so that the plural pronouns they, their, and them can be used: All who agree should raise their right hands. All writers know that their first books are not likely to be bestsellers. See also they.


1 [it]
pronoun, nominative it, possessive its or (Obsolete or Dialect) it, objective it; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
(used to represent an inanimate thing understood, previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context): It has whitewall tires and red upholstery. You can't tell a book by its cover.
(used to represent a person or animal understood, previously mentioned, or about to be mentioned whose gender is unknown or disregarded): It was the largest ever caught off the Florida coast. Who was it? It was John. The horse had its saddle on.
(used to represent a group understood or previously mentioned): The judge told the jury it must decide two issues.
(used to represent a concept or abstract idea understood or previously stated): It all started with Adam and Eve. He has been taught to believe it all his life.
(used to represent an action or activity understood, previously mentioned, or about to be mentioned): Since you don't like it, you don't have to go skiing.
(used as the impersonal subject of the verb to be, especially to refer to time, distance, or the weather): It is six o'clock. It is five miles to town. It was foggy.
(used in statements expressing an action, condition, fact, circumstance, or situation without reference to an agent): If it weren't for Edna, I wouldn't go.
(used in referring to something as the origin or cause of pain, pleasure, etc.): Where does it hurt? It looks bad for the candidate.
(used in referring to a source not specifically named or described): It is said that love is blind.
(used in referring to the general state of affairs; circumstances, fate, or life in general): How's it going with you?
(used as an anticipatory subject or object to make a sentence more eloquent or suspenseful or to shift emphasis): It is necessary that you do your duty. It was a gun that he was carrying.
Informal. (used instead of the pronoun its before a gerund): It having rained for only one hour didn't help the crops.
(in children's games) the player called upon to perform some task, as, in tag, the one who must catch the other players.
sex appeal.
sexual intercourse.
get with it, Slang. to become active or interested: He was warned to get with it or resign.
have it, Informal.
to love someone: She really has it bad for him.
to possess the requisite abilities for something; be talented, adept, or proficient: In this business youeither have it or you don't.
with it, Slang.
aware of the latest fads, fashions, etc.; up-to-date.
attentive or alert: I'm just not with it early in the morning.
understanding or appreciative of something, as jazz.
Carnival Slang. being a member of the carnival.

before 900; Middle English, variant of Middle English, Old English hit, neuter of he1

See me.


pronoun, singular nominative she, possessive her or hers, objective her; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
the female person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that female.
the woman: She who listens learns.
anything considered, as by personification, to be feminine: spring, with all the memories she conjures up.
noun, plural shes.
a female person or animal.
an object or device considered as female or feminine.

1125–75; Middle English, alteration of Old English sēo, sīo, sīe, feminine of se the1; replacing Old English hēo, hīo, feminine personal pronoun; see he1, her

See he1, me, they. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To they
World English Dictionary
he1 (hiː, (unstressed) iː)
1.  refers to a male person or animal: he looks interesting; he's a fine stallion
2.  refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybody: everybody can do as he likes in this country
3.  refers to a person or animal of unknown or unspecified sex: a member of the party may vote as he sees fit
4.  a.  a male person or animal
 b.  (in combination): he-goat
5.  a.  Compare tag a children's game in which one player chases the others in an attempt to touch one of them, who then becomes the chaser
 b.  Compare it the person chasing
[Old English hē; related to Old Saxon hie, Old High German her he, Old Slavonic this, Latin cis on this side]

he2 (heɪ, Hebrew he)
the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ה), transliterated as h

he3 (hiː, heɪ)
he-he!, Also: hee-hee! an expression of amusement or derision

the chemical symbol for

abbreviation for
1.  high explosive
2.  His Eminence
3.  His (or Her) Excellency

it1 (ɪt)
1.  refers to a nonhuman, animal, plant, or inanimate thing, or sometimes to a small baby: it looks dangerous; give it a bone
2.  refers to an unspecified or implied antecedent or to a previous or understood clause, phrase, etc: it is impossible; I knew it
3.  used to represent human life or experience either in totality or in respect of the present situation: how's it going?; I've had it; to brazen it out
4.  used as a formal subject (or object), referring to a following clause, phrase, or word: it helps to know the truth; I consider it dangerous to go on
5.  used in the nominative as the formal grammatical subject of impersonal verbs. When it functions absolutely in such sentences, not referring to any previous or following clause or phrase, the context is nearly always a description of the environment or of some physical sensation: it is raining; it hurts
6.  informal (used as complement with be) the crucial or ultimate point: the steering failed and I thought that was it
7.  Compare he (in children's games) the player whose turn it is to try to touch another
8.  informal
 a.  sexual intercourse
 b.  sex appeal
9.  informal a desirable quality or ability: he's really got it
[Old English hit]

the internet domain name for

abbreviation for
information technology

she (ʃiː)
1.  refers to a female person or animal: she is a doctor; she's a fine mare
2.  refers to things personified as feminine, such as cars, ships, and nations
3.  (Austral), (NZ) an informal word for it : she's apples; she'll be right
4.  a.  a female person or animal
 b.  (in combination): she-cat

they (ðeɪ)
1.  refers to people or things other than the speaker or people addressed: they fight among themselves
2.  refers to unspecified people or people in general not including the speaker or people addressed: in Australia they have Christmas in the summer
3.  not standard refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybody: if anyone objects, they can go
4.  an archaic word for those : blessed are they that mourn
usage  It was formerly considered correct to use he, him, or his after pronouns such as everyone, no-one, anyone, or someone as in everyone did his best, but it is now more common to use they, them, or their, and this use has become acceptable in all but the most formal contexts: everyone did their best

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. he (see paradigm of O.E. third pers. pronoun below), from P.Gmc. *hiz, from P.Gmc. base *khi-, from PIE *ki-, the "this, here" (as opposed to "that, there") root (cf. Hittite ki "this," Gk. ekeinos "that person," O.C.S. si, Lith. sis "this"), and thus the source of the third person pronouns in
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.

- 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

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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

The symbol for the element helium.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
The symbol for helium.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
  1. Her (or His) Excellency

  2. high explosive

  3. His (or Her) Eminence

information technology
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see bigger they come; let the chips fall where they may.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our
At some point in many professors' careers, they want to move.
They were also working much harder than they had to in order to enhance the
  economic rents of wealthy landowners.
They had rummaged around his thorax, trying to get close to the arrowhead and
  the tissue around it.
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