From earlier hem, from Middle English hem, from Old English heom (them, dative) of hie,[1] originally a dative plural form but in Middle English coming to serve as an accusative plural as well. Cognate with Dutch hun (them), German ihnen (them).

Now often treated as a form of them, which however derives from Old Norse rather than Old English.




  1. (now colloquial) Them (typically after a preposition, or otherwise with accusative or dative force; now only in unstressed position).
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter j, in Le Morte Darthur, book XVI:
      Truly said sire Ector I can not here of hym nor of syr Galahad / Percyuale nor syr Bors / lete hem be sayd syre Gawayne / for they foure haue no pyeres
    • 1602, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night:
      Some are become great, some atcheeues greatnesse, and some haue greatnesse thrust vppon em.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 1, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Then there came a reg'lar terror of a sou'wester same as you don't get one summer in a thousand, and blowed the shanty flat and ripped about half of the weir poles out of the sand. We spent consider'ble money getting ’em reset, and then a swordfish got into the pound and tore the nets all to slathers, right in the middle of the squiteague season.
    • 2010, John Baron, The Guardian, 3 December:
      We've literally had dozens of your photographs submitted this week – keep ’em coming!

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  1. ^ 'em” in Unabridged:, LLC, 1995–.