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[self-help, self-] /ˌsɛlfˈhɛlp, ˈsɛlf-/
the act of providing for or helping or the ability to provide for or help oneself without assistance from others.
Law. the act or right of remedying a wrong, without resorting to legal proceedings.
the acquiring of information or the solving of one's problems, especially those of a psychological nature, without the direct supervision of professionals or experts, as by independent reading or by joining or forming lay groups that are devoted to one's interests or goals.
of or relating to a book, article, home study course, or the like, offering an individual information or counseling intended to be personally beneficial or profitable:
self-help books on overcoming shyness.
Origin of self-help
First recorded in 1825-35
Related forms
self-helper, noun
self-helpful, self-helping, adjective
self-helpfulness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for self-help
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is indeed, in itself, a monument of the power of self-help in man.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • It is, in short, the exhibition of self-help in one of its best forms.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • Too much guidance and restraint hinder the formation of habits of self-help.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • No help was to be had from either of their homes; it was the day of self-help for all.

  • The highest philanthropy supplies the means and opportunities for self-help.

    Usury Calvin Elliott
British Dictionary definitions for self-help


the act or state of providing the means to help oneself without relying on the assistance of others
  1. the practice of solving one's problems by joining or forming a group designed to help those suffering from a particular problem
  2. (as modifier): a self-help group
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 self-help

1831, from self- + help (n.). Apparently coined by Carlyle. British Self-Help Emigration Society is attested from 1887.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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