- the possessive form of it1 (used as an attributive adjective): The book has lost its jacket. I'm sorry about its being so late.
Origin of its
- (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.
Origin of it1
- sweet vermouth: gin and it.
Origin of it2
- contraction of it is: It's starting to rain.
- contraction of it has: It's been a long time.
- of, belonging to, or associated in some way with itits left rear wheel
- (as pronoun)each town claims its is the best
- information technology
- it is or it has
- refers to a nonhuman, animal, plant, or inanimate thing, or sometimes to a small babyit looks dangerous; give it a bone
- refers to an unspecified or implied antecedent or to a previous or understood clause, phrase, etcit is impossible; I knew it
- used to represent human life or experience either in totality or in respect of the present situationhow's it going?; I've had it; to brazen it out
- used as a formal subject (or object), referring to a following clause, phrase, or wordit helps to know the truth; I consider it dangerous to go on
- 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 sensationit is raining; it hurts
- (used as complement with be) informal the crucial or ultimate pointthe steering failed and I thought that was it
- (in children's games) the player whose turn it is to try to touch anotherCompare he 1 (def. 5b)
- sexual intercourse
- sex appeal
- informal a desirable quality or abilityhe's really got it
Word Origin and History for its
neuter possessive pronoun; the modern word begins to appear in writing at the end of 16c., from it + genitive/possessive ending 's (q.v.), and "at first commonly written it's, a spelling retained by some to the beginning of the 19c." [OED]. The apostrophe came to be omitted, perhaps because it's already was established as a contraction of it is, or by general habit of omitting apostrophes in personal pronouns (hers, yours, theirs, etc.).
The neuter genitive pronoun in Middle English was his, but the clash between grammatical gender and sexual gender, or else the application of the word to both human and non-human subjects, evidently made users uncomfortable. Restriction of his to the masculine and avoidance of it as a neuter pronoun is evidenced in Middle English, and of it and thereof (as in KJV) were used for the neuter possessive. Also, from c.1300, simple it was used as a neuter possessive pronoun. But in literary use, his as a neuter pronoun continued into the 17c.
Old English hit, neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronoun, from Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi- (cf. Old Frisian hit, Dutch het, Gothic hita "it"), from PIE *ko- "this" (see he). Used in place of any neuter noun, hence, as gender faded in Middle English, 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 1610s; 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.