unto oneself:

all by oneself, without the assistance or presence of any other.

I understand "unto oneself" is a stock phrase, as is used in "law unto itself" and "land unto itself".

What does "unto" mean in this phrase? How does "unto oneself" come to mean self-independent?

unto preposition

1 : TO

2 —used as a function word to indicate reference or concern


  • 'Unto oneself' implies 'not unto others'. – Michael Harvey Oct 27 '19 at 14:50
  • 1
    You've already provided definitions. If you're asking why those are the definitions, it's unlikely anybody could give an objective answer. If you're asking something else, it's not clear what that is. – Jason Bassford Oct 27 '19 at 14:57

This is an antiquated usage that you would find in the King James Bible or other writing from the 16th or 17th century. Extrapolating from the OED definition you have provided, we can assume its meaning is something like 'by' or 'for'.

If someone does something 'unto oneself', they are doing it for themselves or by themselves.

If a person is a 'law unto themselves' they are deciding for themselves what they can or can't do, without asking anybody else.

A 'land unto itself' is an independent land, alone and by itself.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.