Definitions

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.

Etymologies

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  ("that, the"). Originally masculine nominative, in Middle English it superseded all previous Old English forms (, 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  (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)

Examples

  • Also included in this information will be the filename of the files waiting to print, the login account name of the user who SPOOLed the file, the time that the file was SPOOLed, the size of the file in PRIMOS records, and the printer name where the file is to print.

    Phrack Issue #15 Elric of Imrryr's Issue

  • If, therefore, I wish to say “the small fires in the house”—and I can do this in one word—I must form the word “fire-in-the-house, ” to which elements corresponding to “small, ” our plural, and “the” are appended.

    Chapter 5. Form in Language: Grammatical Concepts

  • He liked the stately monuments much more than he liked Gibbon or Ruskin; he loved their dignity; their unity; their scale; their lines; their lights and shadows; their decorative sculpture; but he was even less conscious than they of the force that created it all, —the Virgin, the Woman, —by whose genius “the stately monuments of superstition” were built, through which she was expressed.

    The Dynamo and the Virgin (1900)

  • For some eighteen years he was occupied in exploring and in opening telegraphlines through the eastern or northmiddle part of the great forest state, the wilderness state of the “matto grosso” —the “great wilderness, ” or, as Australians would call it, “the bush.

    IV. The Headwaters of the Paraguay

  • Then there is _the_ event, _the great climax event_, the actual coming of the Lord Jesus, out of the heavens, down to the earth.

    Quiet Talks on the Crowned Christ of Revelation

  • The melancholy of the whole story, —the “pity of it, ”—the “one long sigh” which Schlegel heard in it, is conveyed with an almost magic suddenness in this single touch; and yet one touch more, and that of priceless importance, —the suggestion of the whole world of misery and disorder that may lie hidden as an awful possibility in the tempers and vanities of even two “poor old” heads of houses.

    Introduction

  • At least, methinks, from the Covenant which GOD made with _Abraham_, and his Seed, _the Blessings of which_ are _come upon the_ believing _Gentiles_ [r], there is Reason to hope well concerning the Infant Offspring of GOD'S People, early devoted, and often recommended to him, that their _Souls_ will be _bound in the

    Submission to Divine Providence in the Death of Children Recommended and inforced, in a sermon preached at Northampton, on the death of a very amiable and hopeful child, about five years old

  • There is a mean curiosity, as of a child opening a forbidden door, or a servant prying into her master’s business; —and a noble curiosity, questioning, in the front of danger, the source of the great river beyond the sand, —the place of the great continents beyond the sea; —a nobler curiosity still, which questions of the source of the River of Life, and of the space of the Continent of Heaven, —things which “the angels desire to look into.

    Sesame and Lilies. Lecture I.-Sesame: Of Kings’ Treasuries

  • According to Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission,  a majority of Kenyans approved the new law in  the 4th August referendum, with the 'Yes' team garnering 6,092,593 votes, which is 66.9 percent, while the  'No' team was only able to manage about 2,795,059 votes or (30.1 percent) of the total vote cast.

    New Constitution Will Signal Country’s ‘Rebirth’, Says Kenyan Justice Minister

  • When he found that it was for people of consequence in a private room that the articles were required, he set to work with a will and produced a polish "that would have struck envy to the soul of _the amiable Mr. Warren_, _for they used Day and Martin's at the_ '_White

    Pickwickian Studies

Comments

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  • "Thee" means (meant?) to thrive or prosper? And that definition comes first? Surely that couldn't have been right in 1913, or ever.

    December 3, 2009

  • Especially when you do as it instructs: thee (1) or (2)?

    December 3, 2009

  • The first definition from Webster's 1913 is excellent.

    December 3, 2009

  • You know, I read Milos' comment and it didn't strike me as odd to hear "the 405," for example, but now that you mention it, Ptero, where I grew up (Pennsylvania), they don't use "the"--it would be something like, "Take I-81" or "Take 81..."

    Hm. Learn something every day.

    September 11, 2009

  • In upstate New York, highway names in Buffalo take "the" (as in "Take the one-ninety to get to the falls") but not in Rochester ("Take five-ninety to get to the lake"). I'd always wondered about that, and now Milos has provided a possible solution -- maybe Buffalo's aberration is the result of its proximity to Canada...

    September 11, 2009

  • On the West Coast, and in Canada, they use this to prefix the names of highways; "take the 405". It was rather astounding to me the first time I heard it.

    September 11, 2009

  • Rule two I’ve learned exactly like that. Rule one, it seems to me, might be true sometimes, so perhaps not as a rule, but rather as an observation that allows probabilistic extrapolation or something like that...
    Pauses are often accompanied by an “er” or “um”, those little words usually start with a vowel sound, so that might be a reason for the pauses-/ði/.

    September 11, 2009

  • I just imagined someone at a bakery saying, "I'd like the...chocolate fuflun, please," and I burst out laughing.

    September 11, 2009

  • I don't think the rule is official, Pro, but I have noticed the same pronunciatory differences, at least among Americans.

    Maybe it's in the same family as the tendency to pronounce the vowel longer in "rider" than in "writer," which (as a Brit pointed out to me once) both sound the same when uttered by a Yank.

    September 11, 2009

  • I noticed that people tend to pronounce this word THē (as in "the apple") instead of THə (as in "the car"), in the following cases:
    1) before a pause ("I'd like the... chocolate fuflun, please")
    2) emphasis ("Wordie is not a website. It's the website").

    Is there any rule for that?

    September 11, 2009

  • Chained_bear, you're making my left eye twitch.

    October 22, 2007

  • Really? It used to drive me crazy too. Now I think it's teh alsome.

    October 22, 2007

  • I mean, the is so underused in the English language, we need to come with more uses for it. Now, teh, that word drives me crazy.

    October 22, 2007

  • The *other* usage of 'the' is as 'the adverbial the' (or at any rate that's what Fowler calls it: it modifies adjectives), as in 'the more the merrier': i.e. 'by so much more numerous, by that much merrier'.

    October 21, 2007

  • As in: "the google, "checking the email", "going to the Safeway store", etc.

    I'm not proud of this.

    March 15, 2007