pronoun, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
Origin of they
However, while use of they and its forms after singular indefinite pronouns or singular nouns of general personal reference or indefinite gender is common and generally acceptable, their use to refer to a single clearly specified, known, or named person is uncommon and likely to be noticed and criticized, as in this example: My hair stylist had their car stolen. Even so, use of they, their, and them is increasingly found in contexts where the antecedent is a gender-nonconforming individual or one who does not identify as male or female: Tyler indicated their preferences on their application.
And although they may be used as a singular pronoun, they still takes a plural verb, analogous to the use of "you are" to refer to one person: The student brought in a note to show why they were absent. See also he1.
Definition for they (2 of 4)
pronoun, nominative he, possessive his, objective him; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
noun, plural hes.
Origin of he1
Those who object to the generic use of he have developed various ways of avoiding it. One is to use he/she or she/he (or he or she or she or he ) or the appropriate case forms of these pairs: Everyone who agrees should raise his or her (or her or his or his/her or her/his ) right hand. Forms blending the feminine and masculine pronouns, as s/he, have not been widely adopted, probably because of confusion over how to say them.
Another solution is to change the antecedent pronoun or noun from singular to plural so that the plural pronouns they, their, and them can be used: All who agree should raise their right hands. All writers know that their first books are not likely to be bestsellers. See also they.
Definition for they (3 of 4)
pronoun, nominative it, possessive its or (Obsolete or Dialect) it, objective it; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
- sex appeal.
- sexual intercourse.
Origin of it1
Definition for they (4 of 4)
pronoun, singular nominative she, possessive her or hers, objective her; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them.
noun, plural shes.
Origin of she
British Dictionary definitions for they (1 of 10)
Word Origin for they
British Dictionary definitions for they (2 of 10)
the chemical symbol for
British Dictionary definitions for they (3 of 10)
British Dictionary definitions for they (4 of 10)
British Dictionary definitions for they (5 of 10)
- a female person or animal
- (in combination)she-cat
Word Origin for she
British Dictionary definitions for they (6 of 10)
Word Origin for he
British Dictionary definitions for they (7 of 10)
British Dictionary definitions for they (8 of 10)
British Dictionary definitions for they (9 of 10)
pronoun (subjective or objective)
- sexual intercourse
- sex appeal
Word Origin for it
British Dictionary definitions for they (10 of 10)
the internet domain name for
Word Origin and History for they (1 of 4)
c.1200, from Old Norse þeir, originally masculine plural demonstrative pronoun, from Proto-Germanic *thai, nominative plural pronoun, from PIE *to- (see that). Gradually replaced Old English hi, hie, plurals of he, heo, hit (see he, she, it) by c.1400. Colloquial use for "anonymous people in authority" is attested from 1886.
Word Origin and History for they (1 of 4)
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.
Word Origin and History for they (2 of 4)
mid-12c., probably evolving from Old English seo, sio (accusative sie), fem. of demonstrative pronoun se "the," from PIE root *so- "this, that" (see the). The Old English word for "she" was heo, hio, however by 13c. the pronunciation of this had converged by phonetic evolution with he "he," which apparently led to the fem. demonstrative pronoun being used in place of the pronoun (cf. similar development in Dutch zij, German sie, Greek he, etc.). The original h- survives in her. A relic of the Old English pronoun is in Manchester-area dialectal oo "she." As a noun meaning "a female," she is attested from 1530s.
Word Origin and History for they (3 of 4)
Old English he (see paradigm of Old English third person pronoun below), from Proto-Germanic *hi- (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch he, hi, Dutch hy, Old High German he), from PIE *ki-, variant of *ko-, the "this, here" (as opposed to "that, there") root (cf. Hittite ki "this," Greek ekeinos "that person," Old Church Slavonic si, Lithuanian šis "this"), and thus the source of the third person pronouns in Old English. The feminine, hio, was replaced in early Middle English by forms from other stems (see she), while the h- wore off Old English neuter hit to make modern it. The Proto-Germanic root also is the source of the first element in German heute "today," literally "the day" (cf. Old English heodæg).
|nom.||he||hit||heo, hio||hie, hi|
|acc.||hine||hit||hie, hi||hie, hi|
Pleonastic use with the noun ("Mistah Kurtz, he dead") is attested from late Old English. With animal words, meaning "male" (he-goat, etc.) from c.1300.
Medicine definitions for they
Science definitions for they
Idioms and Phrases with they (1 of 2)
see bigger they come; let the chips fall where they may.
Idioms and Phrases with they (2 of 2)
In addition to the idioms beginning with it
- it figures
- it never rains but it pours
- it stands to reason
- it takes all sorts
- it takes getting used to
- it takes one to know one
- it takes two to tango
- that does it