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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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


reliance on one's own abilities, decisions, etc
ˌself-reˈliant adj
ˌself-reˈliantly adv
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


reliance on oneself or one's own powers or resources.
self′-reli′ant, adj.
self′-reli′antly, adv.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.




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.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.self-reliance - personal independence
independence, independency - freedom from control or influence of another or others
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


The capacity to manage one's own affairs, make one's own judgments, and provide for oneself:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


[ˌselfrɪˈlaɪəns] Nindependencia f, autosuficiencia f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005
References in classic literature ?
From her eyes had been plucked all look of self-reliance. She leaned with a dependent air toward her companion.
I cannot feel friendly toward my quondam fellow-American, Napoleon III., especially at this time,--[July, 1867.]--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.
Why then do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present there will be power not confident but agent.
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.
There is almost no kind of self-reliance, so it be sane and proportioned, which fashion does not occasionally adopt and give it the freedom of its saloons.
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. She carried her head, too, a little more resolutely.
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."
I would not send a poor girl into the world, unarmed against her foes, and ignorant of the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her, till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will to watch and guard herself; - and as for my son - if I thought he would grow up to be what you call a man of the world - one that has "seen life," and glories in his experience, even though he should so far profit by it as to sober down, at length, into a useful and respected member of society - I would rather that he died to-morrow!
They had fortitude and self-reliance, and in time of difficulty or peril stood up for the welfare of the state like a line of cliffs against a tempestuous tide.
We have lost so much self-reliance. Perhaps it is having these grown-up children who we think can take care of us - Canada and Australia, and the others.
The offered hand--rather large, but beautifully formed--was given to me with the easy, unaffected self-reliance of a highly-bred woman.
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?