Definition of self in English:


nounPlural selves

  • 1A person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

    ‘our alienation from our true selves’
    ‘guilt can be turned against the self’
    mass noun ‘language is an aspect of a person's sense of self’
    • ‘In many cultures people have multiple souls or selves that migrate from one body to another.’
    • ‘When we allow people to know the real us we risk rejection and for many we would rather paint our true selves than face heartbreak.’
    • ‘We've heard it before and we'll probably keep on hearing it for as long as we all buy into this idea that in growing up we lose our innocence and fall out of touch with our true selves.’
    • ‘He understood me and I didn't have to hide my true self from him.’
    • ‘Now the agonies focused less on Peggy's behaviors than on Moore's yearning for her own true self.’
    • ‘Where you expect to find your true inner self, you will come face-to-face with a mob of strangers.’
    • ‘Even if they do, it is clear that it is as conscious, human animals that we gain a sense of our individuality and selves.’
    • ‘There are times when others can hold up the mirror and show us our true selves.’
    • ‘We disperse ourselves into our many social roles, and as a consequence, we are not linked to our true selves.’
    • ‘That's where things fell apart, and they didn't really show their true selves.’
    • ‘Our true selves are out there in the marketplace, ready to wear, see, listen, and eat.’
    • ‘It's complicated stuff, and invariably lets us down by revealing our true selves, often at the most crucial of times.’
    • ‘To exist simultaneously as two selves, two persons, may have been Lowell's greatest wish.’
    • ‘The most important thing reading does for us, she concludes, is to give us a sense of our true selves, to reclaim us from the world.’
    • ‘This is the year in which people find their true selves.’
    • ‘I look at myself in the mirror, and while this is not a bad self as far as selves go, it isn't who I know I'm supposed to be.’
    • ‘Too often in the wider sphere they act like troubled ghosts of their true selves.’
    • ‘Were there others she knew whose appearances deceived their true selves?’
    • ‘Your friendship will be way more intriguing if you and your bud get in touch with your true inner selves.’
    • ‘Now I gently introduce others to their intuition and often their true selves.’
    ego, i, oneself, persona, person, identity, character, personality, psyche, soul, spirit, mind, intellect, inner man, inner person, inner woman, inner self, one's innermost feelings, one's heart of hearts
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1one's self One's particular nature or personality; the qualities that make one individual or unique.
      ‘by the end of the round he was back to his old self’
      ‘Paula seemed to be her usual cheerful self’
      • ‘In Algebra II the next day, Jason was his usual cheerful self.’
      • ‘Despite my lack of sleep, I think I'm back to my old self again.’
      • ‘I started out quiet and introverted, then I blossomed a bit, then I went back to my old self.’
      • ‘Martin had returned to his usual, cheerful self, and seemed inclined to pretend nothing had happened, which suited Wendy.’
      • ‘More than that, Australia is positioned as not merely America's partner but her better self.’
      • ‘You really need to help him exercise his better self.’
      • ‘I only said to him last night that he was back to his normal, bubbly self.’
      • ‘She was never her old, cheerful self anymore.’
      • ‘It's great to see that he is now fully recovered and back to his old self.’
      • ‘Once the glitter is gone, you are back to your old self.’
      • ‘She smiled, and apparently returned to her usual cheerful self.’
      • ‘The writing self (the author) is different from the living self (the person).’
      • ‘He's being his usual charming self, as he always is when medical personnel are trying to help him.’
      • ‘I was wondering when you would get back to your old self.’
      • ‘All's intact if you can be your usual charming self.’
      • ‘By some combination of his own sheer determination, the wonderful work of colleagues, and the support of his family, he seemed back to his old self again.’
      • ‘Each person brings into the school his or her unique self.’
      • ‘He was in a great deal of pain and found it difficult to be his old, cheery self.’
      • ‘She'll more than likely be back to her old self before you know it - and she should appreciate that you've been so cool about it.’
      • ‘It took work and time but I got back to my old self.’
    2. 1.2mass noun One's own interests or pleasure.
      ‘to love in an unpossessive way implies the total surrender of self’
      • ‘For the unscrupulous, office might give access to large profits or the manipulation of power in the interests of self, friends, or family.’
      • ‘For some it is the pursuit of money and possessions, but for others it could be the love of self or pleasure, the god of fashion, driving ambition, or something else that controls our thinking and actions.’
      • ‘Political stability can equally only be achieved when political parties place national interests above self.’
      • ‘In it, she draws from the Greek myth of Narcissus, the young man who falls in love with his own reflection, and plays with that notion of desire and passion for self.’
    3. 1.3with adjective one's self Used ironically to refer to oneself or someone else.
      ‘an article with a picture of my good self’
    4. 1.4 Used on counterfoils, cheques, and other papers to refer to the holder or person who has signed.
      ‘the uppermost counterfoil was marked ‘Self’’


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zelf and German selbe. Early use was emphatic, expressing the sense ‘(I) myself’, ‘(he) himself’, etc. The verb dates from the early 20th century.