What does the idiom "keep oneself to oneself" mean?

The phrase keep oneself to oneself is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of keep oneself to oneself.

Meaning of "keep oneself to oneself"


The idiom 'keep oneself to oneself' means to remain introverted, stay distant and avoid social activities or contact with other people. It suggests that someone is particularly solitary, prefers to be alone and shuns the company of others.


The exact origin of the phrase 'keep oneself to oneself' is uncertain, though it appears to be quite old. It could be related to the Middle English phrase 'go to one's silf', which was used in the sense of 'being by oneself'. Alternatively, it may have been derived from the French phrase 'tenir les mains en soi', which can be roughly translated as 'holding one's hands close'.


The phrase 'keep oneself to oneself' is typically used to describe someone who is introverted, or particularly solitary, as noted above. It can also be used to describe someone who avoids contact with other people, particularly if they are seen to be overly secretive or uninterested in social interaction.

Example Sentences

  • John was a strange man, who kept himself to himself and never seemed to talk to anyone.
  • Amy always keeps herself to herself, so nobody really knows what she's up to.
  • She is happy to keep herself to herself and avoid the stress of social interaction.
  • He was happy to keep himself to himself and avoid talking to other people.

The meanings of the words in the "keep oneself to oneself" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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