The The ([th][=e], when emphatic or alone; [th][-e], obscure before a vowel; [th]e, obscure before a consonant; 37), definite article. [AS. [eth][=e], a later form for earlier nom. sing. masc. s[=e], formed under the influence of the oblique cases. See {That}, pron.] A word placed before nouns to limit or individualize their meaning. [1913 Webster]

Note: The was originally a demonstrative pronoun, being a weakened form of that. When placed before adjectives and participles, it converts them into abstract nouns; as, the sublime and the beautiful. --Burke. The is used regularly before many proper names, as of rivers, oceans, ships, etc.; as, the Nile, the Atlantic, the Great Eastern, the West Indies, The Hague. The with an epithet or ordinal number often follows a proper name; as, Alexander the Great; Napoleon the Third. The may be employed to individualize a particular kind or species; as, the grasshopper shall be a burden. --Eccl. xii. 5. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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