do one’s own thing


  1. a material object without life or consciousness; an inanimate object.
  2. some entity, object, or creature that is not or cannot be specifically designated or precisely described: The stick had a brass thing on it.
  3. anything that is or may become an object of thought: things of the spirit.
  4. things, matters; affairs: Things are going well now.
  5. a fact, circumstance, or state of affairs: It is a curious thing.
  6. an action, deed, event, or performance: to do great things; His death was a horrible thing.
  7. a particular, respect, or detail: perfect in all things.
  8. an aim; objective: The thing is to reach this line with the ball.
  9. an article of clothing: I don’t have a thing to wear.
  10. things,
    1. implements, utensils, or other articles for service: I’ll wash the breakfast things.
    2. personal possessions or belongings: Pack your things and go!
  11. a task; chore: I’ve got a lot of things to do today.
  12. a living being or creature: His baby’s a cute little thing.
  13. a thought or statement: I have just one thing to say to you.
  14. Informal. a particular interest or talent: Sports is not my thing.
  15. Informal. a peculiar attitude or feeling, either positive or negative, toward something; mental quirk: She has a thing about cats.
  16. something signified or represented, as distinguished from a word, symbol, or idea representing it.
  17. a topic, behavior, or activity involving or limited to a specified group: It’s a girl thing, so you wouldn’t understand.
  18. Informal. something that people do (often used in expressions of mild disapproval or mockery): Since when did clapping at the end of a movie become a thing?
  19. Law. anything that may be the subject of a property right.
  20. new thing, Jazz. free jazz.
  21. the thing,
    1. something that is correct or fashionable: That café is the thing now.
    2. that which is expedient or necessary: The thing to do is to tell them the truth.
  1. do/find one’s own thing, Informal. to pursue a lifestyle that expresses one’s self.Also do/find one’s thing.
  2. make a good thing of, Informal. to turn (a situation, experience, etc.) to one’s own profit; benefit by: She made a good thing of her spare-time hobbies.
  3. not to get a thing out of,
    1. to be unable to obtain information or news from: The police couldn’t get a thing out of him.
    2. to fail to appreciate, understand, or derive aesthetic pleasure from: My wife likes opera, but I don’t get a thing out of it.
  4. see/hear things, Informal. to have hallucinations.


  1. an object, fact, affair, circumstance, or concept considered as being a separate entity
  2. any inanimate object
  3. an object or entity that cannot or need not be precisely named
  4. informal a person or animal regarded as the object of pity, contempt, etcyou poor thing
  5. an event or act
  6. a thought or statement
  7. law any object or right that may be the subject of property (as distinguished from a person)
  8. a device, means, or instrument
  9. (often plural) a possession, article of clothing, etc
  10. informal the normal pattern of behaviour in a particular contextnot interested in the marriage thing
  11. informal a mental attitude, preoccupation or obsession (esp in the phrase have a thing about)
  12. an activity or mode of behaviour satisfying to one’s personality (esp in the phrase do one’s (own) thing)
  13. the done thing acceptable or normal behaviour
  14. the thing the latest fashion
  15. be on to a good thing to be in a profitable situation or position
  16. make a thing of to make a fuss about; exaggerate the importance of


  1. (often capital) a law court or public assembly in the Scandinavian countriesAlso: ting

Old English þing “meeting, assembly,” later “entity, being, matter” (subject of deliberation in an assembly), also “act, deed, event, material object, body, being,” from Proto-Germanic *thengan “appointed time” (cf. Old Frisian thing “assembly, council, suit, matter, thing,” Middle Dutch dinc “court-day, suit, plea, concern, affair, thing,” Dutch ding “thing,” Old High German ding “public assembly for judgment and business, lawsuit,” German ding “affair, matter, thing,” Old Norse þing “public assembly”). Some suggest an ultimate connection to PIE root *ten- “stretch,” perhaps on notion of “stretch of time for a meeting or assembly.”

For sense evolution, cf. French chose, Spanish cosa “thing,” from Latin causa “judicial process, lawsuit, case;” Latin res “affair, thing,” also “case at law, cause.” Old sense is preserved in second element of hustings and in Icelandic Althing, the nation’s general assembly.

Used colloquially since c.1600 to indicate things the speaker can’t name at the moment, often with various meaningless suffixes, e.g. thingumbob (1751), thingamajig (1824). Southern U.S. pronunciation thang attested from 1937. The thing “what’s stylish or fashionable” is recorded from 1762. Phrase do your thing “follow your particular predilection,” though associated with hippie-speak of 1960s is attested from 1841.

In addition to the idiom beginning with thing

  • thing or two
  • things are looking up

also see:

  • all the rage (thing)
  • all things to all men
  • amount to the same thing
  • do one’s thing
  • first thing
  • first things first
  • for one (thing)
  • get (a thing) going
  • get into the swing of things
  • greatest thing since sliced bread
  • have a good thing going
  • have a thing about
  • just one of those things
  • know all the answers (a thing or two)
  • little knowledge is a dangerous thing
  • near thing
  • no such thing
  • not know beans (the first thing)
  • of all things
  • other things being equal
  • seeing things
  • sure thing
  • the latest (thing)
  • the thing
  • the thing is
  • too much of a good thing
  • very thing

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