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

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

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What does the word thou mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, Collins English Dictionary of the English Language and American Heritage, the word thou is an archaic possessive pronoun that means you. This is similar to thee, thine, thy, ye, and you. This can also be used as an abbreviation for thousand, such as a thousandth of an inch. This form of the word you is ​​used mainly in familiar address to good kin or to a younger person or inferior person with familiarity or contempt, but it is also used in the King James Bible to refer to God when addressed in prayer in a devotional context. You might see this in Shakespeare’s plays like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet in the famous quote, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” The personal pron. thou is pronounced thow.

Many different languages have words for thou. You may notice that some of these word and phrases look and sound similar to each other. These are called cognates. Cognates are often formed when two words have a similar origin language or root word. This list of translations of thou is provided by Word Sense. See how many of these translations you are familiar with!

  • 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.)
  •  Oriya: (familar) ତୋତେ‎ (tote), (mid-formal) ତୁମକୁ‎ (tumaku), (formal) ଆପଣଙ୍କୁ‎ (aapananku)
  •  Faroese: teg‎, tær‎
  •  Old Irish: -ut‎, t-‎, dot-‎
  •  Arabic: ـكَ‎ (masc.), ـكِ‎ (fem.), إِيَّاكَ‎ (masc.), إِيَّاكِ‎ (fem.)
  •  Min Dong: 汝‎ (nṳ̄)
  •  Rapa Nui: koe‎
  •  Hopi: ung‎
  •  Taos: ę̋‎
  •  West Frisian: (informal) dy‎, (formal) jo‎
  •  Galician: te‎
  •  Yiddish: דיך‎
  •  Vietnamese: (informal) bạn‎
  •  Spanish: (informal) te‎, (formal) se‎, ti‎, vosotros‎ (pl.), ustedes‎ (pl.), usted‎
  •  Wiradhuri: ngindu‎
  •  Ewe: wò‎
  •  Albanian: ty‎, të‎
  •  Cantonese: 你‎ (nei5)
  •  Polish: (familiar) ciebie‎ (common), (polite) Pan‎ (m-pr), (polite) Pani‎ (fem.)
  •  Tagalog: (familiar) ka‎, (familiar, less used) ikaw‎, (familiar, when subject of sentence is ‘I’) kita‎, (polite) kayo‎, (most polite) sila‎
  •  Hakka: 你‎ (ngì, ǹg, nì, ǹ)
  •  Javanese: jenengan‎
  •  Catalan: tu‎, vostè‎
  •  Turkish: (familiar) seni‎ (polite, grammatically plural) sizi‎
  •  Maori: koe‎ (singular), kōrua‎ (two people/dual), koutou‎ (three or more people/plural)
  •  Malay: kamu‎, anda‎, awak‎, engkau‎, mu‎, kau‎
  •  Asturian: te‎, te‎
  •  Esperanto: vin‎, cin‎ (familiar, rarely used)
  •  Egyptian Arabic: ك‎
  •  Dutch: (standard) jou‎, je‎, (formal) u‎, (Flemish) u‎, jij‎
  •  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)
  •  Novial: vu‎
  •  Welsh: (familiar) ti‎, (familiar) di‎, (polite) chi‎, (polite) chwi‎
  •  Volapük: oli‎
  •  Hindi: तुझ‎ (familiar), तुम‎ (mid-polite), आप‎ (polite)
  •  Sundanese: anjeun‎
  •  Latin: te‎, te‎ (accusative and ablative), tibi‎ (dative)
  •  Kurdish: te‎
  •  Slovak: ťa‎, teba‎, ti‎, tebe‎, tebou‎
  •  Hebrew: אותך‎ (accusative), לך‎ (dative)
  •  Georgian: შენ‎
  •  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
  •  Classical Nahuatl: tehhuātl‎
  •  Latvian: tevi‎, jūs‎
  •  Macedonian: (familiar) тебе‎, (polite) вас‎, вам‎
  •  Mazanderani: تر‎ (tërë)
  •  Old English: þē‎
  •  Bokmål: (familiar) deg‎, (polite) Dem‎, (polite, rare) eder‎
  •  Adangme: mo‎
  •  Venetian: te‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: thu‎, sibh‎ (formal)
  •  Hebrew: לך‎, לכי‎
  •  Nynorsk: (familiar) deg‎, (polite) Dykk‎
  •  Armenian: (informal) քեզ‎, (formal) Ձեզ‎
  •  Old Armenian: քեզ‎
  •  Yoruba: (familiar) ẹ‎, (polite, grammatically plural) yín‎
  •  Romani: tut‎
  •  Scots: ye‎, you‎
  •  Chamicuro: pi’ti‎
  •  Syriac: ܠܟ‎, ܠܟܝ‎
  •  Finnish: sinä‎ (accusative), sinä‎ (partitive), (polite, rare in modern Finnish) teidän‎, (polite, rare in modern Finnish) teitä‎
  •  Tunisian Arabic: ك‎ (masc.)
  •  Manx: (informal) oo‎, (emphatic) uss‎, (formal) shiu‎, (emphatic) shiuish‎
  •  French: (familiar) toi‎, (polite) vous‎
  •  Pipil: metz-‎
  •  Mandarin: (familiar) 你‎ (nǐ), (formal) 您‎ (nín)
  •  Irish: thú‎, (emphatic) thusa‎
  •  Lojban: do‎
  •  Tlingit: wa.é‎
  •  Kannada: ನಿನ್ನನ್ನು‎ (accusative), ನಿನಗೆ‎ (dative)
  •  Teochew: 你‎, 汝‎ (le2)
  •  Burmese: နင်‎, မင်း‎, ခင်ဗျား‎, ရှင်‎
  •  Zulu: wena‎
  •  Danish: (familiar) dig‎, (polite) Dem‎
  •  Czech: tebe‎, tobě‎, tě‎, tebou‎
  •  Afrikaans: jou‎, (formal) u‎
  •  Min Nan: 你‎, 汝‎ (lí, lú)
  •  Lower Sorbian: śi‎ (familiar), tebje‎ (familiar), was‎ (polite)
  •  Aragonese: te‎
  •  Greek: εσένα‎
  •  Luxembourgish: (familiar) dech‎, (polite) iech‎
  •  Lithuanian: tave‎, Jus‎
  •  Dalmatian: toi‎
  •  Romanian: (accusative) te‎ (unstressed), (stressed) pe tine‎ , (dative) îți‎ (unstressed), ție‎ (stressed)
  •  Tajik: (familiar) туро‎ (polite, grammatically plural) Шуморо‎
  •  Russian: (familiar) тебя́‎, тебе́‎, тобо́й‎, (polite) Вас‎, Вам‎, Вами‎
  •  Crimean Tatar: saña‎
  •  German: dich‎ (accusative, familiar), dir‎ (dative, familiar), Sie‎ (accusative, polite)
  •  Icelandic: (familiar) þig‎, (polite, rare in modern Icelandic) yður‎
  •  Swedish: dig‎
  •  Cornish: ’th‎
  •  Persian: (familiar) تو را‎ (to-rā), ترا‎ (torā) (polite, grammatically plural) شم ارا‎ (šomā-rā)
  •  Italian: ti‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Quechua: qamta‎

What is the origin of the word thou?

According to Etymonline, the word thou has been used since Middle English and comes from the Old English thū. This word is related to Old Saxon thū, Old High German du, Old Norse thū, Latin tū, Latin tu, Middle Dutch du, Low German du and Doric Greek tu. This is from Proto-Indo-European roots and Proto-Germanic origin. This grammatical subject of a finite verb was used in parts of Northern England.

What are synonyms of thou?

There are many synonyms for thou, below from Power Thesaurus

  •  sir
  •  superego
  •  inner man
  •  personal pronoun
  •  all of you
  •  all y’all
  •  previously
  •  provided that
  •  other self
  •  subconscious self
  •  it ain’t me
  •  subliminal self
  •  she
  •  he
  •  how
  •  yourselves
  •  so
  •  one of us
  •  self
  •  presence
  •  like that
  •  substantially
  •  formerly
  •  allyou
  •  ye
  •  ourselves
  •  my humble self
  •  you
  •  y’all
  •  my solver
  •  ethical self
  •  himself
  •  thee
  •  better self
  •  subsequently
  •  ego
  •  yourself
  •  not me
  •  you-all
  •  suppose
  •  rule
  •  second person
  •  her
  •  positively
  •  him
  •  soul
  •  you all
  •  can
  •  that

Overall, the word thou is a familiar form of address of the second person, used as a singular pronoun since early Modern English. This personal pronoun of the second person is seen in ecclesiastical prose and can also be used in verb form, nominative case, nominative form, or the possessive form. This is similar to the Modern English second person you.


  1. Thou | Definition of Thou | Merriam-Webster  
  2. thou | Origin and meaning of thou | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  3. You synonyms – 168 Words and Phrases for You | Power Thesaurus 
  4. you: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense