1. Used to refer to the female person or animal previously mentioned or implied. See Usage Notes at he1, I1, they.
2. Used to refer to a person whose gender is unspecified or unknown.
3. Used in place of it to refer to certain inanimate things, such as ships and nations, traditionally perceived as female: "Went out and hopped in my old Ford / Hit the engine but she ain't turnin'" (Bruce Springsteen).
A female animal or person. Sometimes used in combination: Is the cat a she? Is that a she-bear?
[Middle English, probably alteration of Old English sēo, feminine demonstrative pron.; see so- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.