Open main menu

Wiktionary β




An engraving of the 1st century B.C.E. bust of Julius Caesar from the Farnese collection, on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy.[1] In his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War, 58–49 B.C.E.), Caesar used illeism to give an air of impartiality to the account, including justifications of his own actions.

From Latin ille (that man; he) + -ism, modelled on egoism.



illeism (uncountable)

  1. (often linguistics) The practice of (excessively) referring to oneself in the third person.
    • 2002, Lewis Walker, comp., “General Works (Items 0067–1154)”, in Shakespeare and the Classical Tradition: An Annotated Bibliography 1961–1991, New York, N.Y.; London: Routledge, →ISBN, page 300:
      [] "[I]lleism with a difference" occurs when a character, speaking in the first person, refers to himself by name (not simply by a pronoun, which is illeism proper). [William] Sh[akespeare] makes significant use of the device in only four "middle plays." [] This sort of illeism enriches the dramatic context []
    • 2005, S. Viswanathan, “‘Illeism with a Difference’ in Certain Middle Plays”, in Exploring Shakespeare: The Dynamics of Playmaking, New Delhi: Orient Longman, →ISBN, page 5, footnote 12:
      In origin, the device of ‘illeism’ is a joint legacy to Elizabethan drama of the native English medieval stage tradition and of the Senecan translations, and one already used before [William] Shakespeare by [Thomas] Kyd, [George] Peele, and [Christopher] Marlowe. Also, this ‘illeism’ was a mannerism of the historical Julius Caesar as in evidence in his Commentaries; []
    • 2007, Anu Garg, “Words to Describe People: Insults”, in The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Words, New York, N.Y.: Plume Book, →ISBN:
      [F]or some reason, illeism is especially attractive to professional sports players. The award for the best display of illeism has to go to baseball player Rickey Henderson, who left this message on his manager's voice-mail: "Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey" (quoted in Sports Illustrated).
    • 2007, Douglas Bruster, “The Changeling [1653; by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley]”, in Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino, editors, Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works, Oxford: Clarendon Press, →ISBN, annotation of Act IV, scene iii, line 107, page 1100, column 2:
      It seems likely that Isabella's 'how she treads the air' is the kind of illeism that Franciscus uses later in this scene at l[ine] 216: 'He handles him like a feather. Hey!' [] It should be noticed that some editors are confused by Franciscus's illeism as well, and give his line to Lollio.

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ From H[ans] F. Helmolt, editor (1902–1907) The History of the World; a Survey of a Man’s Record, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead and Company, OCLC 1193060.

Further readingEdit