- Old English self, seolf, sylf "one's own person, same," from Proto-Germanic *selbaz (cf. Old Norse sjalfr, Old Frisian self, Dutch zelf, Old High German selb, German selbst, Gothic silba), Proto-Germanic *selbaz, from PIE *sel-bho-, from root *s(w)e- "separate, apart" (see idiom).
Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. [Alan Watts]
Self-made man first recorded 1832, American English.