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Definition: excessive use of the pronoun ‘he’, especially in reference to one’s self; the habit of speaking of one’s self in third person.

Pronunciation: IL-ee-I’Zm


Illeism originates from the Latin ille meaning ‘he’ and the English suffix ‘ism’.

Why this word?

In ancient times, illeism actually played a role in common cultures. In master-slave relationships it was used to further diminish the slave, to deprive him from humanity; kings spoke third person of themselves for the same reason exactly. Early literary works such as the ones by Julius Caesar or Xenophon who described wars, used illeism to impart themselves of the happenings.

Nowadays, some people still do it, although I can’t really say why… The famous football\soccer players Diego Maradona and Pele were caught referring to themselves in third person. Brigitte Bardot, Charles de Gaulle, Conan O’Brien, Bob Dole and so many others… If you’re asking me- it is just irritating.

How to use the word illeism?

Illeism is a noun representing a people referring to themselves in third person.

John: “Who wants to make John a cup coffee? You know John is not nice before he had his morning coffee!”

Maya: “I can’t stand John’s illeism; can’t he speak in first person like normal people do?”


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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.


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