AskDefine | Define she

User Contributed Dictionary



A phonetic development of forms hēo, sēo.


  • a UK /ʃiː/, /Si:/
  • a US /ʃi/, /Si/
  • Rhymes with: -iː


  1. A female person; the previously mentioned female person.
    I asked Mary, but she said she didn't know.
  2. The previously mentioned ship, country, or female animal.
    She is a beautiful boat, isn't she?

Usage notes


  • Albanian: ajo
  • Ancient Egyptian: sy *síy
  • Arabic: (híya)
    Egyptian: (híyya)
  • Aramaic:
    Syriac: ܗܝ (hī)
    Hebrew: הי (hī)
  • Belarusian: йана (jana)
  • Bulgarian: тя (tja)
  • Catalan: ella
  • Chinese: (tā)
    Teochew: i1
  • Cree: wiya (both male and female)
  • Croatian: ona
  • Czech: ona
  • Dutch: zij
  • Dyirbal: (no third-person pronoun)
  • Esperanto: ŝi
  • Ewe: eya (both male and female)
  • Faroese: hon
  • Fijian: koya (both male and female)
  • Finnish: hän (both male and female)
  • French: elle
  • Georgian: ის (is) (both male and female)
  • German: sie
  • Greek: αυτή (aftí)
  • Guaraní: ahẽ (both male and female)
  • Hausa: (independent form) ’ítá
  • Hawaiian: ia (both male and female)
  • Hebrew: היא (heya'a)
  • Hungarian: ő (both male and female)
  • Ido: el, elu
  • Indonesian: dia / ia (both male and female)
  • Interlingua: illa
Irish: conjunctive, í disjunctive
ship, country, female animal
  • Use the translation of he, she or it according to the gender of the object in the target language.


Pinyin syllable

  1. A transliteration of any of a number of Chinese characters properly represented as having one of four tones, shē, shé, shě, or shè.

Usage notes

English transcriptions of Chinese speech often fail to distinguish between the critical tonal differences employed in the Chinese language, using words such as this one without the appropriate indication of tone.

Extensive Definition

She () is a third-person, singular personal pronoun (subject case) in Modern English.


The use of she for I (also for you and he) is common in literary representations of Highland English.
  • " 'And here she comes,' said Donald, as Captain Dalgetty entered the hall." — Walter Scott, The Legend of Montrose iv (1819).
She is also used instead of it for things to which feminine gender is conventionally attributed: a ship or boat (especially in colloquial and dialect use), often said of a carriage, a cannon or gun, a tool or utensil of any kind, and occasionally of other things. She refers to abstractions personified as feminine, and also for the soul, a city, a country, an army, the church, and others.
  • "Stanley had been ridiculing the habit of personifying the Church as a woman, and speaking of it tenderly as she." — George C. Brodrick, Memory and Impressions (1900) 252
  • "With all the pompous titles ... bestowed upon France, she is not more than half so powerful as she might be." — The Annual Register III. Miscellaneous Essays (1760) 203
  • "[He] told the Ambassadour, that the Turkes army was at Malta, and that she had saccaged the towne." — Thomas Washington tr. Nicholay’s Voyages i. xiii. (1585) 14 b
Rarely and archaically, she referred to an immaterial thing without personification. Also of natural objects considered as feminine, as the moon, or the planets that are named after goddesses; also of a river (now rare), formerly of the sea, a tree, etc. William Caxton in 1483 (The Golden Legende 112 b/2) and Robert Parke in 1588 (tr. Mendoza’s Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China, 340) used she for the sun, but this may possibly be due to misprint; survival of the Old English grammatical gender can hardly be supposed, but Caxton may have been influenced by the fact that the sun is feminine in Dutch. She has been used for her, as an object or governed by a preposition, both in literary use (now rare), or vulgarly, as an emphatic objective case.
  • "I want no angel, only she." — Olive Schreiner Story African Farm ii. xiii. (1889) 284
  • " 'I hope—our presence did not inconvenience—the young lady?' 'Bless your heart, sir! nothing ever inconveniences she'." — Miss Dinah Mulock Craik, John Halifax, gentleman x (1856).
She is also used attributively, applied to female animals, as in: she-ass, -ape, -bear, -dog, -dragon, -sheep, -wolf, -lion [really a punning distortion of shilling], -stock, and -stuff [in the U.S. = cattle]. When applied to persons, it is now somewhat contemptuous, as in she-being, -cousin, -dancer, -thief, and others. She-friend meant a female friend, often in bad sense, that is, a mistress; but she-saint, was simply a female saint. Rarely she was also prefixed to masculine nouns in place of the (later frequent) feminine suffix -ess.
  • "They took her for their Patroness, and consequently for their she God." — Daniel Brevint, Saul and Samuel at Endor, vii. (1674) 161.
It has also been prefixed to nouns with the sense "that is a woman", often in disparaging use but also with intensive force, as she-woman. Now it is somewhat rare:
  • "Some she-malady, some unhealthy wanton, Fires thee verily." — Robinson Ellis, The poems and fragments of Catullus, vi. (1871) 4
  • "Correlative to the he-man is the she-woman, who is equally undesirable." — B. Russell, New Hopes for changing World (1951) 162
"She" is also the title of a song written by Danzig of Misfits fame.


The origin of the modern pronoun form is controversial. If it is to be derived from the Old English demonstrative pronoun seo, sio, this would presuppose that in some dialects of late Old English the diphthong in this word underwent a change of stress, the older pronunciations [si:o] and [si:e] being replaced by [sjo:] and [sje:]. The latter of these variants is represented by the spelling se of the 13th century; and the phonetic development so far is exactly parallel to that of the Old English feminine personal pronoun hío, héo, híe, which in the 13th century was pronounced in some dialects [hjo:, hje:], as is shown by the written forms ho, he. As the combination [sj] is acoustically close to [ʃ], and more difficult (according to English habits of articulation) to produce, it is not surprising that [sje:, sjo:] became [ʃe:, ʃo:], these being the pronunciations expressed by the written forms scæ (midland, c 1150) and sco, scho (northern, a 1300). It has been objected to this view that in Old Northumbrian the feminine singular of the demonstrative was not sio, seo, but ðeo, ðiu. Instances of seo and sio are, however, found in the Lindisfarne Gospels and the glosses to the Durham Ritual and Hymnarium; and the extant remains of the dialect represent a very small portion of the Northumbrian territory. With regard to the substitution of the demonstrative pronoun for the original person pronoun, it may be remarked that the phonetic development of various dialects had in the 12th and 13th century rendered the pronouns he (masculine) and heo (feminine) almost or wholly indistinguishable in pronunciation. There was, therefore, where these dialects were spoken a strong motive for using the unambiguous feminine demonstrative instead of the feminine personal pronoun. Further, the districts in which she or sho first appears in the place of heo are marked by the abundance of Scandinavian elements in the dialect and place-names; and in Old Norse the demonstrative pronoun (of all genders) is often used as a personal pronoun. It is also noteworthy that in Old Saxon and Old High German the feminine personal pronoun nominative singular was siu (modern German sie, Dutch zij), corresponding to Old English sío (the oblique cases, and the masculine and neuter in the singular, being from the stems hi-, i-); and in Old Frisian se 'she' occurs beside hiu. The conjecture that she represents the Old Norse sjá this (nominative singular masculine and feminine) is untenable: the initial [ʃ] is sufficiently accounted for otherwise, and the vowels do not agree. It is however possible that the change from the falling to the rising diphthong in the development both of hío and sío may be due to Scandinavian influence, as in Old Norse the Germanic eu and iu became rising diphthongs. Some scholars have maintained that she and its dialectal variants descend directly from the pronunciations [hje:, hjo:] of heo (referred to above); the contention being that [hj] might naturally develop into [ʃ]. This development has occurred in some Norwegian dialects, and it is illustrated by the proper names Shetland and Shapinshay from Old Norse Hjaltland and Hjalpandisøy. There is slight support for this view in the existence of northern dialect forms such as shoop representing Old English héope. Other views are that [ʃ] was substituted for the un-English sound [ç], developed from [hj], and that it arose from the sequence -s + j- in such contexts as was hió. The first type (to which the modern literary form belongs) is in origin East Midland, while the other type is originally northern.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

I, I myself, alter, alter ego, alterum, better self, ego, ethical self, female, female being, he, her, herself, him, himself, inner man, inner self, it, me, my humble self, myself, number one, oneself, other self, ourselves, self, subconscious self, subliminal self, superego, them, themselves, they, you, yours truly, yourself, yourselves
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