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[thing] /θɪŋ/
a material object without life or consciousness; an inanimate object.
some entity, object, or creature that is not or cannot be specifically designated or precisely described:
The stick had a brass thing on it.
anything that is or may become an object of thought:
things of the spirit.
things, matters; affairs:
Things are going well now.
a fact, circumstance, or state of affairs:
It is a curious thing.
an action, deed, event, or performance:
to do great things; His death was a horrible thing.
a particular, respect, or detail:
perfect in all things.
an aim; objective:
The thing is to reach this line with the ball.
an article of clothing:
I don't have a thing to wear.
  1. implements, utensils, or other articles for service:
    I'll wash the breakfast things.
  2. personal possessions or belongings:
    Pack your things and go!
a task; chore:
I've got a lot of things to do today.
a living being or creature:
His baby's a cute little thing.
a thought or statement:
I have just one thing to say to you.
Informal. a particular interest or talent:
Sports is not my thing.
Informal. a peculiar attitude or feeling, either positive or negative, toward something; mental quirk:
She has a thing about cats.
something signified or represented, as distinguished from a word, symbol, or idea representing it.
a topic, behavior, or activity involving or limited to a specified group:
It’s a girl thing, so you wouldn’t understand.
Informal. something that people do (often used in expressions of mild disapproval or mockery):
Since when did clapping at the end of a movie become a thing?
Law. anything that may be the subject of a property right.
new thing, Jazz. free jazz.
the thing.
  1. something that is correct or fashionable:
    That café is the thing now.
  2. that which is expedient or necessary:
    The thing to do is to tell them the truth.
do / find one's own thing, Informal. to pursue a lifestyle that expresses one's self.
Also, do/find one's thing.
make a good thing of, Informal. to turn (a situation, experience, etc.) to one's own profit; benefit by:
She made a good thing of her spare-time hobbies.
not to get a thing out of,
  1. to be unable to obtain information or news from:
    The police couldn't get a thing out of him.
  2. to fail to appreciate, understand, or derive aesthetic pleasure from:
    My wife likes opera, but I don't get a thing out of it.
see / hear things, Informal. to have hallucinations.
Origin of thing1
before 900; Middle English; Old English: originally, “meeting”; see thing2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for do one's thing


an object, fact, affair, circumstance, or concept considered as being a separate entity
any inanimate object
an object or entity that cannot or need not be precisely named
(informal) a person or animal regarded as the object of pity, contempt, etc: you poor thing
an event or act
a thought or statement
(law) any object or right that may be the subject of property (as distinguished from a person)
a device, means, or instrument
(often pl) a possession, article of clothing, etc
(informal) the normal pattern of behaviour in a particular context: not interested in the marriage thing
(informal) a mental attitude, preoccupation or obsession (esp in the phrase have a thing about)
an activity or mode of behaviour satisfying to one's personality (esp in the phrase do one's (own) thing)
the done thing, acceptable or normal behaviour
the thing, the latest fashion
be on to a good thing, to be in a profitable situation or position
make a thing of, to make a fuss about; exaggerate the importance of
Word Origin
Old English thing assembly; related to Old Norse thing assembly, Old High German ding assembly


/θɪŋ; tɪŋ/
(often capital) a law court or public assembly in the Scandinavian countries Also ting
Word Origin
C19: from Old Norse thing assembly (the same word as thing1)
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 do one's thing



Old English þing "meeting, assembly," later "entity, being, matter" (subject of deliberation in an assembly), also "act, deed, event, material object, body, being," from Proto-Germanic *thengan "appointed time" (cf. Old Frisian thing "assembly, council, suit, matter, thing," Middle Dutch dinc "court-day, suit, plea, concern, affair, thing," Dutch ding "thing," Old High German ding "public assembly for judgment and business, lawsuit," German ding "affair, matter, thing," Old Norse þing "public assembly"). Some suggest an ultimate connection to PIE root *ten- "stretch," perhaps on notion of "stretch of time for a meeting or assembly."

For sense evolution, cf. French chose, Spanish cosa "thing," from Latin causa "judicial process, lawsuit, case;" Latin res "affair, thing," also "case at law, cause." Old sense is preserved in second element of hustings and in Icelandic Althing, the nation's general assembly.

Used colloquially since c.1600 to indicate things the speaker can't name at the moment, often with various meaningless suffixes, e.g. thingumbob (1751), thingamajig (1824). Southern U.S. pronunciation thang attested from 1937. The thing "what's stylish or fashionable" is recorded from 1762. Phrase do your thing "follow your particular predilection," though associated with hippie-speak of 1960s is attested from 1841.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for do one's thing

do one's thing

verb phrase

To follow one's special inclinations, esp despite disapproval; to act independently or alone: Doing your own thing may be all right in prescribed doses (1840+)



One's particular predilection, skill, way of living or perceiving, etc: He ignored the world and stuck to his thing

Related Terms

the best thing since sliced bread, have a thing about, just one of those things, sure thing, a sure thing

[1841+; revived in the 1960s]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with do one's thing

do one's thing

Also,do one's own thing. Pursue one's interests or inclination; do what one does best or enjoys the most. For example, I really give him credit for doing his thing and not being discouraged by what the critics say, or Phyllis is busy doing her own thing, running the magazine and publishing books. Although this colloquialism became closely associated with the counterculture of the 1960s, it is actually much older. In one of his essays (1841) Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “But do your thing and I shall know you.” However, it came into wide use only during the mid-1900s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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