In and of Itself – Meaning, Origin and Usage

You have to admit, the phrase ‘In and of itself’ does sound a little odd. However, it’s often used, especially in written contracts, so it pays to understand exactly what it means.

And if you don’t already know what it means, worry not. Because I’m going to explain everything. I’m going to cover the meaning and the origin of the phrase, and give you some simple examples of the phrase in use, so you can get a better gist of it. I’ll be topping that off with some alternative phrases that you might consider using in its place.

What is the Meaning of the Phrase ‘In and of itself’?

The phrase ‘‘In and of itself’ means ‘On its own, without anything else taken into consideration’.

If you have something put in place as part of a larger endeavour to achieve a goal, then you could use the phrase ‘In and of itself’ to say that it will have the desired effect on its own before you even consider the wider circumstances it’s part of.

What is the Origin of the Phrase ‘In and of itself’?

The phrase may sound a little odd, but we can assure you that this is proper English. However, it’s also considered to be the English way of saying the Latin phrase ‘per se’.

The phrase made its way into English parlance with the translation of the works by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who lived in the 18th century.

How do you Use the Phrase ‘In and of itself’?

People use the phrase ‘In and of itself’ to explain how one thing has the properties that you’re looking for, before you combine it with anything else in your efforts. In other words, explaining that the property of what is being discussed is intrinsic to it, regardless of contexts or conditions.

These days, the phrase is considered a little old fashioned and clunky, and is often omitted from text, especially online, due to so often being considered redundant. Brevity is often favoured online and in many professional communications. This is particularly the case when ‘In and of Itself’ is something that people would assume, know or realise anyway.

The phrase is most often used to add emphasis, and it can be applied to describe objects, actions, tendencies, people, circumstances, and more. Adding emphasis in this one makes the situation being described feel more dramatic, making it a handy phrase to have on hand in a vigorous debate, especially if you want to win.

On the flip side, it can also be used in apologies, to show that you acknowledge what a mistake you have made.

You can use the phrase to describe how an initial action is effective in an endeavour by itself prior to following through with any further steps. It can also be used to describe how a thought or an idea can be enough to make a difference to something before any further measures can be put in place.

It’s also used a lot in formal written legal contracts, and terms and conditions and such. If you are reading it in this context, it’s important that you understand what is being said before you sign any agreement.

Here follows some examples of the phrase in use:

‘Your company is a gift enough in and of itself, the wine is a bonus!’

‘One slip up, in and of itself, isn’t enough to warrant a disciplinary action, but be sure you don’t make a habit of it.’

‘The content of the essay, in and of itself, is very good, but the poor spelling, punctuation and grammar brought the mark down a little I’m afraid.’ 

‘The painting is beautiful in and of itself no matter who painted it or which gallery it’s placed in.’

‘Being part of the team is great in and of itself – but a win this big is more than we could ever have hoped for!’

‘Hearing the diagnosis was traumatic in and of itself to be honest, So much so, I wasn’t ready to discuss treatment options straight away.’

‘Her resignation in and of itself won’t do enough to solve the problem. There are systemic issues here that have to be addressed if ever we are to move forward.’

‘The will is binding, in and of itself, but just knowing it’s what he wanted 

‘The photo is moving enough in and of itself, before hearing the story behind it.’

What are some Alternative Ways of Saying the Phrase ‘In and of itself’?

Here are some alternative words and phrases that you may consider.

  • ‘By itself’
  • ‘In itself’
  • ‘On its own’
  • ‘In its own capacity’
  • ‘By its very nature’

Final Thoughts

So to sum it all up, the phrase ‘In and of itself’ simply means  ‘On its own, without anything else taken into consideration’.