[ thuh m-selvz, th em- ]
/ ðəmˈsɛlvz, ˌðɛm- /


an emphatic form of them or they: The authors themselves left the theater. The contract was written by the partners themselves.
a reflexive form of they (used as the direct or indirect object of a verb or the object of a preposition): They washed themselves quickly. The painters gave themselves a week to finish the work. The noisy passengers drew attention to themselves.
(used with a singular indefinite pronoun or singular noun antecedent in place of the definite masculine himself or the definite feminine herself): No one who ignores the law can call themselves a good citizen. How do you help a friend who is harming themselves?
(used in place of they or them after as, than, or but): no soldiers braver than themselves; As for the entertainers, everyone got paid but themselves.
their usual, normal, characteristic selves: After a hot meal and a few hours' rest, they were themselves again.

Origin of themselves

1300–50; them + selves; replacing themself, Middle English thamself; see self

Usage note

See myself, they. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for themselves

British Dictionary definitions for themselves


/ (ðəmˈsɛlvz) /


  1. the reflexive form of they or them
  2. (intensifier)the team themselves voted on it
(preceded by a copula) their normal or usual selvesthey don't seem themselves any more
Also: themself not standard a reflexive form of an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybodyeveryone has to look after themselves
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

Word Origin and History for themselves


c.1500, standard from 1540s, replacing themself (cf. theirself). Themself returned late 20c. as some writers took to avoiding himself with gender-neutral someone, anyone, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper