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Illeism (from Latin ille meaning "he, that") is the act of referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person. It is sometimes used in literature as a stylistic device. In real-life usage, illeism can reflect a number of different stylistic intentions or involuntary circumstances.

In literature

Early literature such as Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico or Xenophon's Anabasis, both ostensibly non-fictional accounts of wars led by their authors, used illeism to impart an air of objective impartiality, which included justifications of the author's actions. In this way personal bias is presented, albeit dishonestly, as objectivity.

In an essay, theologian Richard B. Hays challenged earlier findings that he disagrees with: "These were the findings of one Richard B. Hays, and the newer essay treats the earlier work and earlier author at arms' length."[1]

Illeism may also be used to show idiocy, as with the character Mongo in Blazing Saddles, e.g. "Mongo like candy" and "Mongo only pawn in game of life"; though it may also show innocent simplicity, as it does with Harry Potter's Dobby the Elf ("Dobby has come to protect, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door").

In everyday speech

Iin different contexts, illeism can be used to reinforce self-promotion, as used to sometimes comic effect by Bob Dole throughout his political career ("When the president is ready to deploy, Bob Dole is ready to lead the fight on the Senate Floor", Bob Dole speaking about the Strategic Defense Initiative at the NCPAC convention, 1987). This was particularly made notable during the United States presidential election of 1996 and lampooned broadly in popular media for years afterwards. Deepanjana Pal of Firstpost noted that speaking in the third person "is a classic technique used by generations of Bollywood scriptwriters to establish a character's aristocracy, power and gravitas".[2]

On the other hand, third person self-referral can be associated with self-irony and not taking oneself too seriously (since the excessive use of pronoun "I" is often seen as a sign of narcissism and egocentrism),[3] as well as with eccentricity in general. Psychological studies show that thinking and speaking of oneself in the third person increases wisdom and has a positive effect on one's mental state because an individual who does so is more intellectually humble, more capable of empathy and understanding the perspectives of others, and is able to distance emotionally from one's own problems.[4][5][6] Accordingly, in certain Eastern religions, like Hinduism, illeism is sometimes seen as a sign of enlightenment, since through it, an individual detaches their eternal self (atman) from their bodily form; in particular, Jnana yoga encourages its practitioners to refer to themselves in the third person.[7] Known illeists of that sort include Swami Ramdas,[8] Ma Yoga Laxmi,[9] Anandamayi Ma,[10] and Mata Amritanandamayi.[11]

A number of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe,[12][13] Alice Cooper,[14] and Deanna Durbin,[15] referred to themselves in the third person to distance their public persona from their actual self.

Some parents use illeism (refer to themselves as "Daddy" or "Mommy") because very young children may not yet understand that the pronouns "I" and "you" refer to different people based on context.[16][17]

Notable illeists

Real people




Religion and spirituality


Fictional characters



  • Doctor Doom is known for more often than not referring to himself as "Doom" instead of "me" or "I".[79]
  • The Hulk[79]
  • Mantis almost always refers to herself as "Mantis", "she", and "this one"; this has to do with her upbringing at the Temple of the Priests of Pama, an alien pacifistic sect heavily inspired by real-life Eastern religious movements.[80]


. Mr. French from Family Affair


Manga and anime

Video games

  • Candice, the seventh Gym Leader in the Sinnoh region in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, often uses illeism in her speech, such as "Candice is on fire!"
  • Guzma, the leader of Team Skull in Pokémon Sun & Moon, speaks like this; notable examples are "It's ya boy Guzma!" and "Guzmaaaaaaaaaaaaa! What's wrong with you?!"

See also


  1. ^ Richard B. Hays, "'Here We Have No Lasting City': New Covenantalism in Hebrews" in Richard J. Bauckham et al. (eds.), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 151-173, esp. 151-152, 167.
  2. ^ "Rahul Gandhi, blurring lines between filmi and real politicians". Firstpost. 2014-01-28. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Raskin, Robert (1988). "Narcissism and the Use of Personal Pronouns". Journal of Personality. 56 (2): 393-404. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1988.tb00892.x. PMID 3404383.
  4. ^ "Why speaking to yourself in the third person makes you wiser". Aeon. 2019-08-07. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "The Benefits of Talking About Yourself in the Third Person". HowStuffWorks. 2018-04-16. Retrieved .
  6. ^ "The Psychological Case for Talking in the Third Person". Mic. 2015-02-25. Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Hinduism-The Religious Life". Archived from the original on 22 October 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ "Swami Ramdas". Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ "Osho World Online Magazine :: February 2013". Retrieved .
  10. ^ Aymard, Orianne (2014-05-01). When a Goddess Dies: Worshipping Ma Anandamayi after Her Death. ISBN 978-0199368631.
  11. ^ " The Rediff Interview/Mata Amritanandmayi". Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ a b Spoto, Donald (2001). Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 324. ISBN 9780815411833.
  13. ^ a b Leaming, Barbara (2010). Marilyn Monroe. Crown. p. 404. ISBN 9780307557773.
  14. ^ a b Whitworth, Melissa (August 28, 2007). "Alice Cooper: 'Some people turn to God, I turned to golf'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on August 29, 2007. Retrieved 2011.
  15. ^ a b Private letter to film historian/critic William K. Everson in the late 1970s
  16. ^
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  19. ^ See the Wikisource of the book: s:The Education of Henry Adams
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  33. ^ Marchman, Tim; Fischer-Baum, Reuben (September 25, 2013). "Who Is The Most Pompous Sports Pundit? A Scientific Investigation". Deadspin. Pronouns within quotes weren't counted unless the author was quoting himself, and we also counted when Gregg Easterbrook used "TMQ" or "your columnist" in the obvious place of a pronoun. ("TMQ's been on the record as saying...")
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  38. ^ "Doug Robinson: Karl Malone is one of a kind". Deseret News. 2010-08-10. Retrieved . Maybe Malone didn't even know he was the one who was saying those things, because he tended to talk about himself as another being, in third person. Or maybe he was just schizophrenic, whatever.
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