- (used, especially before a noun, with a specifying or particularizing effect, as opposed to the indefinite or generalizing force of the indefinite article a or an): the book you gave me; Come into the house.
- (used to mark a proper noun, natural phenomenon, ship, building, time, point of the compass, branch of endeavor, or field of study as something well-known or unique): the sun; the Alps; the Queen Elizabeth; the past; the West.
- (used with or as part of a title): the Duke of Wellington; the Reverend John Smith.
- (used to mark a noun as indicating the best-known, most approved, most important, most satisfying, etc.): the skiing center of the U.S.; If you're going to work hard, now is the time.
- (used to mark a noun as being used generically): The dog is a quadruped.
- (used in place of a possessive pronoun, to note a part of the body or a personal belonging): He won't be able to play football until the leg mends.
- (used before adjectives that are used substantively, to note an individual, a class or number of individuals, or an abstract idea): to visit the sick; from the sublime to the ridiculous.
- (used before a modifying adjective to specify or limit its modifying effect): He took the wrong road and drove miles out of his way.
- (used to indicate one particular decade of a lifetime or of a century): the sixties; the Gay Nineties.
- (one of many of a class or type, as of a manufactured item, as opposed to an individual one): Did you listen to the radio last night?
- enough: He saved until he had the money for a new car. She didn't have the courage to leave.
- (used distributively, to note any one separately) for, to, or in each; a or an: at one dollar the pound.
Origin of the1
- (used to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree and to signify “in or by that,” “on that account,” “in or by so much,” or “in some or any degree”): He's been on vacation and looks the better for it.
- (used in correlative constructions to modify an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree, in one instance with relative force and in the other with demonstrative force, and signifying “by how much … by so much” or “in what degree … in that degree”): the more the merrier; The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Origin of the2
- variant of theo- before a vowel: thearchy.
- used preceding a noun that has been previously specifiedthe pain should disappear soon; the man then opened the door Compare a 1
- used with a qualifying word or phrase to indicate a particular person, object, etc, as distinct from othersask the man standing outside; give me the blue one Compare a 1
- used preceding certain nouns associated with one's culture, society, or communityto go to the doctor; listen to the news; watch the television
- used preceding present participles and adjectives when they function as nounsthe singing is awful; the dead salute you
- used preceding titles and certain uniquely specific or proper nouns, such as place namesthe United States; the Honourable Edward Brown; the Chairman; the moon
- used preceding a qualifying adjective or noun in certain names or titlesWilliam the Conqueror; Edward the First
- used preceding a noun to make it refer to its class genericallythe white seal is hunted for its fur; this is good for the throat; to play the piano
- used instead of my, your, her, etc, with parts of the bodytake me by the hand
- (usually stressed) the best, only, or most remarkableHarry's is the club in this town
- used with proper nouns when qualifiedwritten by the young Hardy
- another word for per, esp with nouns or noun phrases of costfifty pence the pound
- often facetious, or derogatory my; ourthe wife goes out on Thursdays
- used preceding a unit of time in phrases or titles indicating an outstanding person, event, etcmatch of the day; player of the year
- (often foll by for) used before comparative adjectives or adverbs for emphasisshe looks the happier for her trip
- used correlatively before each of two comparative adjectives or adverbs to indicate equalitythe sooner you come, the better; the more I see you, the more I love you
- a variant of theo-
Word Origin and History for the
late Old English þe, nominative masculine form of the demonstrative pronoun and adjective. After c.950, it replaced earlier se (masc.), seo (fem.), þæt (neuter), and probably represents se altered by the þ- form which was used in all the masculine oblique cases (see below).
Old English se is from PIE root *so- "this, that" (cf. Sanskrit sa, Avestan ha, Greek ho, he "the," Irish and Gaelic so "this"). For the þ- forms, see that.
The s- forms were entirely superseded in English by mid-13c., excepting dialectal survival slightly longer in Kent. Old English used 10 different words for "the" (see table, below), but did not distinguish "the" from "that." That survived for a time as a definite article before vowels (cf. that one or that other).
Adverbial use in the more the merrier, the sooner the better, etc. is a relic of Old English þy, originally the instrumentive case of the neuter demonstrative þæt (see that).
|Inst.||þy, þon||--||þy, þon||--|