Old-fashioned words have a habit of creeping out of the woodwork now and then. “Thy” is a great example of it. It’s a word very few English natives use today, but it’s still widely known. This article will explore the meaning of it and when it fell out of favor.
What Does “Thy” Mean?
“Thy” means “your” in the second person singular. We used multiple forms for the second person singular back when it was popular, but now we use “you” and “your” only. “Love thy neighbor” is one of the most famous quotes using “thy” today (from the Bible).
The definition of “thy,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “your: the possessive form of thou, used when speaking to one person.”
There are many second person singular forms from Old English that we simply don’t use today. It’s common to use “you” and “your” in any case when we’re writing in the second person, whereas back then, we had “thy,” “thou,” “thee,” and “thine.”
To help with pronunciation, “thy” pronounces the “TH” letters the same way that you would in “the.” The “Y” makes an “eye” sound.
Examples Of How To Use “Thy” In A Sentence
We’ll include it in a couple of sentences to help you understand when it’s used. Of course, you’ll rarely (if ever) see it today, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to pay much attention to these sentences and what they mean.
“Thy” replaces “your” in a sentence. In all of the following examples, you can replace “thy” with “your,” and it will still make sense.
- I love thy mother more than anything in this world.
- Thy father would like to know when dinner shall be served.
- Thy school wrote to me to ask about what the next steps were.
- Love thy neighbor and cherish your time.
- We love thy name, and we swear by it daily.
As you can see, all of the above sentences read like old-fashioned ones. That’s because the simple inclusion of “thy” is enough to escort you back a few centuries or so.
When we come across words like “thy” that aren’t common usage, it’s all too easy to point out how silly they sound today. Since we’ve streamlined the use of the second person by only including “you” and “your,” we have a hard time reading anything with “thy.”
Unless you’re specifically writing a historical document for some kind of assignment, you will never come across a time where “thy” is correct. Instead, most people will assume you’re pretentious and won’t want to read much more of what you’ve got to say.
When Did We Stop Saying “Thy”?
“Thy” is a second person singular word. We also have a few others from a few centuries ago that separated the second person singular into different forms. But when did we stop saying it?
According to this graph, we stopped using “thy” at the start of the 1900s and very rarely use it today (unless in exceptional circumstances).
This graph covers all the mentions of the word “thy” in the last 200 years of English literature. It’s still used (and has risen slightly over the last few decades) because people use it in formal and historical documents.
Most of the cases of “thy” in written English from the above graph are used to explain what “thy” means rather than actually using “thy” in a useful way in prose.
Why Don’t We Use “Thy?”
It’s great to learn a bit about the history, and it’s interesting to see that the dawn of the 1900s seemed to mark the fall of “thy.” But we haven’t yet spoken about why “thy” ran out of popularity.
“You” and “your” streamlined the English language. Instead of having multiple second person singular forms, we only needed two, and we could cover every context. “Thy” and all the variations were just too much for people to work with.
It’s the goal of the English language and all the linguists who study it to make it as easy and coherent as possible. As time goes on, words that were once common begin to fall out of favor because no one wants to use them anymore.
“Thy” is one of those words. People stopped using it because it just ended up being confusing. It required people to learn all about the second person singular possessive, objective, and subjective forms, which were all over the place.
Now, we can simply teach “you” and “your” to talk about the second person and possessive forms that we require. There’s no extra learning that must be done and no other forms that we use.
Since “thy” started to drop off in the 1900s, many people were happy about it and didn’t bother trying to use it again. The complexity of it once we were more used to “you” as a pronoun was too much to handle, which is why it’s irrelevant to use in standard English today.
When Can I Use “Thy” Instead Of “Your”?
While “thy” isn’t used often, that doesn’t mean it’s never used. You can see from the graph above that there were still instances where “thy” was used, even in the 2000s (when you’d assume an archaic word like “thy” would be completely dead).
You can use “thy” instead of “your” in historical documents or when you’re writing reports featuring the word “thy” in historical contexts and what it means. Otherwise, you should always use “your.”
We don’t use “thy” anymore. While many native speakers still know that it means “your,” it’s best to avoid using it at all.
You will end up confusing a lot of people if you write “thy” instead of “your” in any case. Remember, most people will assume it’s pretentious and won’t want to read further when they encounter “thy” in text.
What Is The Difference Between “Thy” And “They”?
“Thy” and “they” have similar spellings; there’s no denying that. However, their meanings are far apart, and you should make sure not to confuse either of them when you want to grasp the English language.
“Thy” means “your” and is a second person singular pronoun. “They” means a group of people and is a third person plural pronoun.
Both words are pronouns, but that’s where the similarities end.
The second person talks about “you” or “your.” It refers to people that we’re speaking to, but only ever when there’s one at a time (in the case of “thy.”)
The third person talks about a general group of people to whom we’re not speaking directly. We’re simply referring to them from a distance. “They” means we’re referring to an unidentified group of people rather than one singular person.
Does Thee, Thou, Thine, And Thy Mean The Same?
We briefly mentioned the various forms of “thy” earlier. Each form represents something different in the second person, which is where a lot of the confusion lies and why “thy” is no longer used today.
According to this graph, all four forms followed the same pattern and stopped being popular in the 1900s. “Thine” was the least popular of the four and was rarely used even at its peak.
The definition of “thee,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “you; object form of thou; used when speaking to one person.”
That means we use “thee” in the objective form. It’s still second person singular, so we only use it when speaking to one person, but it’s only in the objective form.
- With his help, I thee leave.
The definition of “thou,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “you, used when speaking to one person.”
“Thou” is the most basic form of the second person singular in Old English. It simply means “you” and refers to “you” without any extra forms.
- Thou shall not pass.
- Thou must leave at once.
The definition of “thine,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “your, used before a vowel sound instead of thy.”
“Thine” is the least popular of the four. That’s because it’s synonymous with “thy,” and there were much fewer situations where “thine” worked over “thy.”
- Thine eyes are on fire.
- Did thou hear it on thine ears?
Is It “Thyself” Or “Thineself”?
The reflexive pronoun of “thy” is “thyself.” “Thy” is the second person singular pronoun, which is correct in any case. “Thine” is only correct when it comes before a vowel sound. Since “thineself” makes “self” come after “thine,” it is grammatically incorrect.
- Thou thyself must be exhausted.
Remember, “thou” is “you” in this example, while “thyself” is “yourself.” We can use the pronoun and reflexive in this way to emphasize the fact that “you” are exhausted in this context.
Thy – Synonyms
Finally, let’s see what synonyms are available in place of “thy.” It’s rare that you’ll find a use for “thy,” so these synonyms will be much better for you to choose from.
There are no other synonyms for “thy” besides the second person singular forms of “you” that we have today.
Make sure you only use one of the above forms as a synonym, as they’ll be the only ones you need.