The Meaning of Thee: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of thee? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word thee, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word thee mean?

According to Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word thee (pron.) is a second person singular object pronoun, equivalent to the modern English second person you. It is used as the singular form of “you” when it is the object of a verb or object of a preposition. This second person second-person singular pronoun is archaic and has largely been replaced by the word you, similar to the words thee, thy, and thine, though it is still used in Northern England like Yorkshire and Lancashire, and in Scots as “ðiː”. Thee is considered the oblique/objective form, thou is the nominative form, and thy is the possessive form as well as thine. The reflexive is thyself. Modern English speakers only use you for the English personal pronouns. 

Many different languages have words for thee. You may notice that some of these word and phrases look and sound similar to each other. These are called cognates. This list of translations of thee is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Catalan: tu‎, vostè‎
  •  Old Irish: -ut‎, t-‎, dot-‎
  •  Mandarin: (familiar) 你‎ (nǐ), (formal) 您‎ (nín)
  •  Swedish: dig‎
  •  Novial: vu‎
  •  Luxembourgish: (familiar) dech‎, (polite) iech‎
  •  Romanian: (accusative) te‎ (unstressed), (stressed) pe tine‎ , (dative) îți‎ (unstressed), ție‎ (stressed)
  •  Pipil: metz-‎
  •  Slovak: ťa‎, teba‎, ti‎, tebe‎, tebou‎
  •  Rapa Nui: koe‎
  •  Wiradhuri: ngindu‎
  •  Kannada: ನಿನ್ನನ್ನು‎ (accusative), ನಿನಗೆ‎ (dative)
  •  Tunisian Arabic: ك‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: thú‎, (emphatic) thusa‎
  •  Egyptian Arabic: ك‎
  •  Faroese: teg‎, tær‎
  •  Adangme: mo‎
  •  Crimean Tatar: saña‎
  •  Macedonian: (familiar) тебе‎, (polite) вас‎, вам‎
  •  Czech: tebe‎, tobě‎, tě‎, tebou‎
  •  Turkish: (familiar) seni‎ (polite, grammatically plural) sizi‎
  •  Old Armenian: քեզ‎
  •  Sundanese: anjeun‎
  •  Latin: te‎, te‎ (accusative and ablative), tibi‎ (dative)
  •  Cornish: ’th‎
  •  Greek: εσένα‎
  •  Japanese: (generic) 君‎ (きみ, kimi), (polite) 貴方‎ (あなた, anata), (friendly or slightly rude) お前‎ (おまえ, omae), (highly insulting) 貴様‎ (きさま, kisama)
  •  Latvian: tevi‎, jūs‎
  •  Portuguese: (familiar in Portugal, rare in Brazil) te‎ (without prepositions), ti‎ (with most prepositions), contigo‎ (attached to the preposition “com”), (polite in Portugal, general in Brazil) você‎ (with or without prepositions), consigo‎ (attached to the preposition “com”; used mostly in Portugal), (formal, accords with the addressee’s gender) o senhor‎ (masc.), a senhora‎ (fem.)
  • ‎  Hebrew: לך‎, לכי
  •  Georgian: შენ‎
  •  Galician: te‎
  •  Min Nan: 你‎, 汝‎ (lí, lú)
  •  Classical Nahuatl: tehhuātl‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: thu‎, sibh‎ (formal)
  •  Yoruba: (familiar) ẹ‎, (polite, grammatically plural) yín‎
  •  Mazanderani: تر‎ (tërë)
  •  Ewe: wò‎
  •  Italian: ti‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Bokmål: (familiar) deg‎, (polite) Dem‎, (polite, rare) eder‎
  •  Hindi: तुझ‎ (familiar), तुम‎ (mid-polite), आप‎ (polite)
  •  Dalmatian: toi‎
  •  Taos: ę̋‎
  •  Cantonese: 你‎ (nei5)
  •  Bulgarian: (informal, direct object, full) теб‎, (informal, direct object, short) те‎, (informal, indirect object, full) тебе‎, (informal, indirect object, short) ти‎, (formal, direct object, full) Вас‎, (formal, direct object, short) Ви‎, (formal, indirect object, full) Вам‎, (formal, indirect object, short) Ви‎
  •  Persian: (familiar) تو را‎ (to-rā), ترا‎ (torā) (polite, grammatically plural) شم ارا‎ (šomā-rā)
  •  Burmese: နင်‎, မင်း‎, ခင်ဗျား‎, ရှင်‎
  •  Syriac: ܠܟ‎, ܠܟܝ‎
  •  Min Dong: 汝‎ (nṳ̄)
  •  Old English: þē‎
  •  Lojban: do‎
  •  Tagalog: (familiar) ka‎, (familiar, less used) ikaw‎, (familiar, when subject of sentence is ‘I’) kita‎, (polite) kayo‎, (most polite) sila‎
  •  Esperanto: vin‎, cin‎ (familiar, rarely used)
  •  Manx: (informal) oo‎, (emphatic) uss‎, (formal) shiu‎, (emphatic) shiuish‎
  •  French: (familiar) toi‎, (polite) vous‎
  •  Polish: (familiar) ciebie‎ (common), (polite) Pan‎ (m-pr), (polite) Pani‎ (fem.)
  •  Arabic: ـكَ‎ (masc.), ـكِ‎ (fem.), إِيَّاكَ‎ (masc.), إِيَّاكِ‎ (fem.)
  •  Armenian: (informal) քեզ‎, (formal) Ձեզ‎
  •  Aragonese: te‎
  •  Chamicuro: pi’ti‎
  •  Tajik: (familiar) туро‎ (polite, grammatically plural) Шуморо‎
  •  Welsh: (familiar) ti‎, (familiar) di‎, (polite) chi‎, (polite) chwi‎
  •  Danish: (familiar) dig‎, (polite) Dem‎
  •  Nynorsk: (familiar) deg‎, (polite) Dykk‎
  •  Hopi: ung‎
  •  Russian: (familiar) тебя́‎, тебе́‎, тобо́й‎, (polite) Вас‎, Вам‎, Вами‎
  •  Malay: kamu‎, anda‎, awak‎, engkau‎, mu‎, kau‎
  •  Zulu: wena‎
  •  Lithuanian: tave‎, Jus‎
  •  Maori: koe‎ (singular), kōrua‎ (two people/dual), koutou‎ (three or more people/plural)
  •  Vietnamese: (informal) bạn‎
  •  Dutch: (standard) jou‎, je‎, (formal) u‎, (Flemish) u‎, jij‎
  •  Javanese: jenengan‎
  •  Oriya: (familar) ତୋତେ‎ (tote), (mid-formal) ତୁମକୁ‎ (tumaku), (formal) ଆପଣଙ୍କୁ‎ (aapananku)
  •  Volapük: oli‎
  •  Spanish: (informal) te‎, (formal) se‎, ti‎, vosotros‎ (pl.), ustedes‎ (pl.), usted‎
  •  Hebrew: אותך‎ (accusative), לך‎ (dative)
  •  Yiddish: דיך‎
  •  Quechua: qamta‎
  •  Icelandic: (familiar) þig‎, (polite, rare in modern Icelandic) yður‎
  •  Scots: ye‎, you‎
  •  Lower Sorbian: śi‎ (familiar), tebje‎ (familiar), was‎ (polite)
  •  Finnish: sinä‎ (accusative), sinä‎ (partitive), (polite, rare in modern Finnish) teidän‎, (polite, rare in modern Finnish) teitä‎
  •  Hakka: 你‎ (ngì, ǹg, nì, ǹ)
  •  Asturian: te‎, te‎
  •  Tlingit: wa.é‎
  •  Kurdish: te‎
  •  Afrikaans: jou‎, (formal) u‎
  •  Albanian: ty‎, të‎
  •  West Frisian: (informal) dy‎, (formal) jo‎
  •  Venetian: te‎
  •  German: dich‎ (accusative, familiar), dir‎ (dative, familiar), Sie‎ (accusative, polite)
  •  Teochew: 你‎, 汝‎ (le2)
  •  Romani: tut‎

What is the origin of the word thee?

According to Etymonline and Wordnik, the word thee comes from the Middle English theen, Middle English thee, theen and the, from the Old English þē and Old English þēon. These comes from the Proto-Germanic þiz and Proto-Germanic þinhanan, from the Proto-Indo-European roots tu-, te-, tenk-, and tenkh-. These can be compared to the Dutch gedijen, German gedeihen, German Low German du, German dir, Gothic gaþeihan and Icelandic þér. In modern times, this word is associated with a familiarity with Shakespeare’s time, English dialects, and the famous quote from one of Shakespeare’s plays Romeo & Juliet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The plural forms ye and you began to also be used for singular and thus replaced these archaic Early modern English pronouns. Someone in olden times might refer to a “small part of thy creation” or say “I shall follow thee to the smaller castle before us,” or “how us, we beseech thee, the way of the cross that we must follow, the way of Jesus.”

Overall, the word thee means you in Modern English. This is a very archaic term that you may only see in Shakespeare’s plays nowadays. This 2nd person subject form is used in the same was that we use you, though you has a much more common use.

Sources:

  1. thee | Origin and meaning of thee | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  2. thee – definition and meaning | Wordnik 
  3. Thee | Definition of Thee | Dictionary