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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English plesen, plaisen, borrowed from Old French plaise, conjugated form of plaisir or plaire, from Latin placeō (to please, to seem good),[1] from the Proto-Indo-European *pleHk- (pleasingness, permission). In this sense, displaced native Old English līcian, whence Modern English like.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • pleace (used from the Middle English period up to the 15th century, and in Scots until the 17th century)
  • plaise


please (third-person singular simple present pleases, present participle pleasing, simple past and past participle pleased)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To make happy or satisfy; to give pleasure to.
    Her presentation pleased the executives.
    I'm pleased to see you've been behaving yourself.
    Our new range of organic foods is sure to please.
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “Ep./1/1”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days:
      And so it had always pleased M. Stutz to expect great things from the dark young man whom he had first seen in his early twenties ; and his expectations had waxed rather than waned on hearing the faint bruit of the love of Ivor and Virginia—for Virginia, M. Stutz thought, would bring fineness to a point in a man like Ivor Marlay, […].
  2. (intransitive, ergative) To desire; to will; to be pleased by.
    Just do as you please.
    He doesn't think, he just says whatever he pleases.
    • 1611, Bible, KJV edition, Psalm 135:6:
      Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth []
    • 1870 July 16, “Our Idler’s Gossip”, in Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, volume XXVII, number 708, new series, [Sydney, N.S.W.], page [3], column 2:
      “Will any gentleman please to get outside and make room for a lady?”
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
  • Dutch: pleasen

Etymology 2[edit]

Short for if you please, an intransitive, ergative form taken from if it please you[1][2] which is a calque of French s’il vous plaît, which replaced pray.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • (for the exaggerated way it is often pronounced as the expression of annoyance) puh-lease


please (not comparable)

  1. Used to make a polite request.
    Please, pass the bread.
    Would you please sign this form?
    Could you tell me the time, please?
    May I take your order, please?
    • 1983 July 10, Berkeley Breathed, Bloom County, spoken by Yuri Andropov:
      (Michael): Yuri Andropov! What are you doing in my closet of anxieties again?
      (Yuri): Uh, oh. This is not 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.?
      (Michael): Does it look like it? You're in the wrong nightmare again!!
      (Yuri): ★@#*!?! Soviet maps ... worth nothing! Give, please, directions to White House.
      Using the word in this position is often, but not always, the trait of a non-native speaker.
  2. Used as an affirmative to an offer.
    —May I help you? —(Yes,) please.
  3. An expression of annoyance or impatience.
    Oh, please, do we have to hear that again?
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Semantic loan from German bitte (please; excuse me).[3][4]



  1. (Cincinnati) Said as a request to repeat information.[5]
    • August 1973, “Bitte or Bitter?”, in Cincinnati, page 109:
      Fellow: May I have a few days off to get married?
      Reply, in the Cincinnati idiom by a boss who had heard the sound but not the sense:
      Boss: Please?
    • September 1978, Virginia Watson-Rouslin, “A Foreign View”, in Cincinnati, page 110:
      Even though I heard it was supposed to be German-Catholic background, there’s only one thing German — they say ‘please’ [for the more common ‘pardon me’], which comes from bitte.
    • September 1979, “Winners: Contest No. 13—The Laugh’s On Us”, in Cincinnati, volume 12, number 12, page 15:
      [] He explained in broken English that one of his daughters was ill and he probably could not be there. I did not understand all that he said, so asked, ‘Please?’ per Cincinnati custom. ‘There is no need to plead. I will be there if she is feeling better,’ he replied.
    • 5 May 1998, Jose I. Sarasua, “Come to Cincinnati... Please?”, in Cost Engineering[1], volume 40, number 5, page 9:
      Cincinnati are some of the most polite persons I have ever met in the US. When asking someone a question, instead of saying “Excuse me,” or “Pardon,” they say “Please?”
    • April 2001, Jeff Robinson, “Say what?”, in Ohio Magazine[2], archived from the original on 2 April 2019, page 77:
      By the same token, one contestant who doesn’t hear a particular question could say “Pardon me?” while another could say “Please?” Again, neither would be lying if he said he was from Ohio.
    • 2008, Henry Hitchings, The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English, →ISBN, page 255:
      In Maine, where as much as a quarter of the population has French ancestry, you may hear a stray hair called a couette, and in parts of Ohio please is used in the same way as the German bitte, to invite a person to repeat something just said — apparently a remnant of the bilingual schooling once available in Cincinnati.
    • 2011, Ellen McIntyre, Nancy Hulan, Vicky Layne, Reading Instruction for Diverse Classrooms: Research-Based, Culturally Responsive Practice, Guilford Press, →ISBN, page 72:
      Ellen grew up outside of Cincinnati and believed her own talk was the “norm,” while others were speakers of dialects. She was in graduate school before she learned that not all people say, Please? to mean Can you repeat that?


  1. 1.0 1.1 please”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024), “please”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ 1
  4. ^ How to speak Cincinnatiese
  5. ^ Dictionary of American Regional English