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Reliance on one's own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence.

self′-re·li′ant adj.
self′-re·li′ant·ly adv.


reliance on one's own abilities, decisions, etc
ˌself-reˈliant adj
ˌself-reˈliantly adv


reliance on oneself or one's own powers or resources.
self′-reli′ant, adj.
self′-reli′antly, adv.




carry a message to Garcia To accomplish one’s assigned task in an independent, resourceful, self-sufficient manner; to do one’s job without making a fuss. This Americanism alludes to Elbert Hubbard’s article “A Message to Garcia,” written during the Spanish-American War. The piece addressed itself to the inability of most people to act without quibbling and procrastinating, citing Major Andrew S. Rowan of the U.S. Army as an exemplary model for his behavior in carrying out the order to find and deliver a message to the Cuban General Garcia. The expression was popular in the early part of this century but is now less frequently heard.

What you have to do, young man, is to carry a message to Garcia. That’s your task. You go back to the Research Laboratory and do it! (American Mercury, July, 1924)

A common variant is take a message to Garcia.

cottage industry A business which is partly or wholly carried out in the home, often based upon the family unit as a labor force. The connection between cottage and home and family is self-evident.

For generations now the sewing of gloves has been conducted largely as a cottage industry. (B. Ellis, Gloves, 1921)

every tub must stand on its own bottom Every man for himself, everyone must take care of himself, everyone must paddle his own canoe; sometimes every tub on its own black bottom. The tub of this expression may mean a vat or cask, or a slow, clumsy ship. Bottom may mean either the underside of a barrel or cask or of a ship. Depending on which of these alternative senses one chooses, a case can be made for either a nautical or a more general origin for this phrase. Either way the expression is said to have first become popular among southern Blacks before being adopted and reassigned by Black jazzmen to describe complete improvisation. The phrase dates from the early 18th century. Another similar expression is to stand on one’s own bottom ‘to be independent, to act on one’s own or for one-self,’ dating from the early 17th century.

hoe one’s own row To make one’s own way, to do one’s own work, to be independent, to take care of one-self. This self-evident American expression dates from the first half of the 19th century.

Our American pretender must, to adopt an agricultural phrase, “hoe his own row,”… without the aid of protectors or dependents. (The Knickerbocker, 1841)

paddle one’s own canoe To shift for one-self, to be self-reliant, to handle one’s own affairs, to manage independently. This expression, which dates from at least 1828, appeared in a bit of doggerel published in Harper’s Magazine in May, 1854. The first stanza was as follows:

Voyager upon life’s sea,
To yourself be true,
And, whate’er your lot may be,
Paddle your own canoe.

It is sometimes facetiously rendered as Pas de lieu Rhône que nous, in macaronic French.

pull one-self up by one’s own boot straps To better one-self by one’s own efforts and resources; to improve one’s status without outside help; to start at the bottom and work one’s way up. A bootstrap is a loop sewn on the side of a boot to help in pulling it on. The expression is a jocular reference to the impossibility of hoisting one-self into the air, even by dint of the mightiest effort.

I had no money, I could have got some by writing to my family, of course, but it had to be the bootstraps or nothing. (Doris Lessing, In Pursuit of English, 1960)

Also current are the variants lift or raise one-self up by one’s own bootstraps.

A poet who lifted himself by his own boot-straps from an obscure versifier to the ranks of real poetry. (Kunitz and Haycraft, British Authors of the 19th Century, 1922)

scratch for oneself To take care of one-self, to be self-reliant; to look out for one’s own best interests. This American colloquialism appeared in print by the mid-19th century.

Shaking off the other child, [she] told him to scratch for hisself a time, while she began to prepare the supper. (Alice Cary, Married, not Mated, 1856)

Scratch for one-self is infrequently heard today.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.self-reliance - personal independence
independence, independency - freedom from control or influence of another or others


The capacity to manage one's own affairs, make one's own judgments, and provide for oneself:


[ˌselfrɪˈlaɪəns] Nindependencia f, autosuficiencia f
References in classic literature ?
Whoever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him, involving, if not his soul, yet many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives the emphasis to manly character.
She completed her preliminary calculations with the ready self-reliance of a woman who thoroughly understood her business, and began the packing forthwith.
Her face was grave, its expression concentrated; she bent on me an unsmiling eye--an eye just returning from abstraction, just awaking from dreams: well-arranged was her simple attire, smooth her dark hair, orderly her tranquil room; but what--with her thoughtful look, her serious self-reliance, her bent to meditation and haply inspiration--what had she to do with love?
I have known men, whose numbers, courage, and self-reliance have saved their people in spite of Jove, whereas in this case he would much rather give victory to us than to the Danaans, if you would only fight instead of being so terribly afraid.
Health, vigor, sturdiness, self-reliance shone from him, and once his make-up had ceased to obtrude its clumsiness, he struck one as handsome.
He knew that the calm common sense and self-reliance of the old man, as well as his experience, would be helpful to them all.
The complication of her shame, her dread, remorse, and misery, overwhelms her at its height; and even her strength of self-reliance is overturned and whirled away like a leaf before a mighty wind.
when in fancy I see his credulous victim, Maximilian, lying stark and stiff in Mexico, and his maniac widow watching eagerly from her French asylum for the form that will never come--but I do admire his nerve, his calm self-reliance, his shrewd good sense.
We are such lovers of self-reliance that we excuse in a man many sins if he will show us a complete satisfaction in his position, which asks no leave to be, of mine, or any man's good opinion.
The slave system on our place, in a large measure, took the spirit of self-reliance and self-help out of the white people.
I should have thought you had learned self-reliance on Berande, instead of needing to lean upon the moral support of every whisky-guzzling worthless South Sea vagabond.
If her face had changed at all, it was in a slight hardening of the mouth-- still eager enough to be very disconcerting at times, he felt--and in an added air of self- possession and self-reliance.