from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- Used before singular or plural nouns and noun phrases that denote particular, specified persons or things: the baby; the dress I wore.
- Used before a noun, and generally stressed, to emphasize one of a group or type as the most outstanding or prominent: considered Lake Shore Drive to be the neighborhood to live in these days.
- Used to indicate uniqueness: the Prince of Wales; the moon.
- Used before nouns that designate natural phenomena or points of the compass: the weather; a wind from the south.
- Used as the equivalent of a possessive adjective before names of some parts of the body: grab him by the neck; an infection of the hand.
- Used before a noun specifying a field of endeavor: the law; the film industry; the stage.
- Used before a proper name, as of a monument or ship: the Alamo; the Titanic.
- Used before the plural form of a numeral denoting a specific decade of a century or of a life span: rural life in the Thirties.
- Used before a singular noun indicating that the noun is generic: The wolf is an endangered species.
- Used before an adjective extending it to signify a class and giving it the function of a noun: the rich; the dead; the homeless.
- Used before an absolute adjective: the best we can offer.
- Used before a present participle, signifying the action in the abstract: the weaving of rugs.
- Used before a noun with the force of per: cherries at $1.50 the box.
- adv. Because of that. Used before a comparative: thinks the worse of you after this mistake.
- adv. To that extent; by that much: the sooner the better.
- adv. Beyond any other: enjoyed reading the most.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- adv. With a comparative or more and a verb phrase, establishes a parallel with one or more other such comparatives.
- adv. this sense) With a comparative, and often with for it, indicates a result more like said comparative. This can be negated with none.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- intransitive v. See thee.
- A word placed before nouns to limit or individualize their meaning.
- adv. By that; by how much; by so much; on that account; -- used before comparatives.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- A word used before nouns with a specifying or particularizing effect, opposed to the indefinite or generalizing force of a or an: as, the gods are careless of mankind; the sun in heaven; the day is fair; long live the king!
- A word used before a noun to indicate a species or genus: as, the song of the nightingale: used in generalization: as, the man that hath no music in himself.
- A word used with a title, or as part of a title: as, the Duke of Wellington; the Right Honorable the Earl of Derby; the Lord Brook; the Reverend John Smith.
- Indicating the most approved, most desirable, most conspicuous, or most important of its kind: as, Newport is the watering-place of the United States: in this use emphatic, and frequently italicized. The is often placed before a person's (especially a woman's) name, to indicate admiration or notoriety (a colloquial use): as, the Elssler.
- Before adjectives used substantively, denoting: An individual: as, she gazed long on the face of the dead.
- A class, or a number of individuals: as, the good die first; do not mix the new with the old.
- An abstract notion: as, the beautiful.
- Denoting that which is well known or famed: as, the prodigal son.
- Used distributively to denote any one separately: as, the fare is a dollar the round trip.
- Used in place of the possessive pronoun to denote a personal belonging: as, to hang the head and weep.
- Used to denote a particular day in relation to a given week, or to some other day of the same Week.
- Used before a participial infinitive, or gerund, followed by an object: the article is now omitted in this construction.
- Used before the relative which: now an archaism.
- [The is generally pronounced as if a syllable (unaccented) of the following word (a proclitic), and its vowel is accordingly obscured, before a consonant, into the neutral vowel-sound of her or but, very lightly sounded (quite like the French “mute e”); before a vowel, often in the same manner, but more usually with the short i sound of pin, only less distinct; when emphatic, as the long e of thee. In poetry, before a word beginning with a vowel-sound, the vowel of the generally may slide into that of the next word, and form with it one metrical syllable; metrically the e is accordingly often cut off in printing. The same so-called elision (synalephe) often took place in Middle English, the being written with the following noun as one word: as, themperour, the emperor.
- In Middle English manuscripts the was often written, as in Anglo-Saxon þe, with the character þ; in early print this character was represented by a form nearly like y, and later printers actually used y instead, þe, erroneously printed þe as if contracted, like þt for that, being printed ye or ye but always pronounced, of course, the. Modern archaists often affect ye for the, and many pronounce it as it looks, “yē.”
- Used to modify adjectives and adverbs in the comparative degree:
- Used without correlation, it signifies in any degree; in some degree: as, Are you well ? The better for seeing you.
- See thee.
- A Middle English form of though.
- n. A Middle English form of thigh.
Middle English, from Old English the, alteration (influenced by , th-, oblique case stem of demonstrative pron.) of se, masculine demonstrative pron..
Middle English, from Old English thȳ, thē, instrumental of thæt, neuter demonstrative pron..(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old English þē ("the, that", demonstrative pronoun), a late variant of sē ("that, the"). Originally masculine nominative, in Middle English it superseded all previous Old English forms (sē, sēo, þæt, þā), from Proto-Germanic *sa (“that”), from Proto-Indo-European *só, *to-, *tód (“demonstrative pronoun”). Cognate with Dutch de, die ("the, that"), Low German de, dat ("the, that"), German der, die, das ("the, that"), Danish den ("the, that"), Swedish den ("the, that"), Icelandic það ("that"). (Wiktionary)
From Middle English, from Old English þȳ ("by that, after that, whereby"), originally the instrumental case of the demonstratives sē (masculine) and þæt (neuter). Cognate with Dutch des te ("the, the more"), German desto ("the, all the more"), Norwegian fordi ("because"), Icelandic því ("because"). (Wiktionary)