In and of Itself – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to say something is solely responsible for a result? You could say that it is, “in and of itself,” the reason for the result. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The expression “in and of itself” means that something is solely responsible for an outcome. You can use the saying to describe a person, object, or situation.

In and of itself” means something is under sole consideration without you giving any thought to other factors. It means that you are excluding all other possible causes and focusing on one thing to find the reason for the outcome.

Example Usage

“Look, the idea isn’t bad in and of itself. I think with a little refinement, you could make it more inclusive of all the principles in the project.”

“The final song in the show was, in and of itself, a magical experience to witness and worth the price of admission.”

“That proposal, in and of itself, is great, but you need to add more to it if you want to get the stakeholder’s attention at the board meeting.”

“The weather today was, in and of itself, the reason for  the delay at the airport and the disruption in passenger travel over the weekend.”

“This movie is, in and of itself, the defining moment of Martin Scorsese’s career. It’s where he built his reputation as one of the leading minds in film.”

“Your cooking is, in and of itself, the sole reason I live on this planet. Thank you for the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, Mrs. Kozlovski.”

“In and of itself, the company is the largest contributor to GDP in the South Korean economy.”

“The bear is, in and of itself, solely responsible for the attacks on the campers this weekend.”

“This gun is solely, in and of itself, responsible for pumping more misery out into the world than the shooter.”

Origin

The expression “in and of itself” has unknown origins. Language experts are unsure when the saying first appears in English, and there is no official first record of its use in communications.

However, records going back to the 1500s show the use of the phrase. Some of the early citations of the saying across the centuries include the following.

“Suppose Artificial beautifying of the face be not in itself absolutely unlawful” (1656)

“The story may be true in itself” (1870)

“It will be a sport in itself, sufficient of itself to thrill and allure” (1919).

“All of this over-tracking would … be in and of itself a work of art, obtrusively filtering through the music” (1966).

“It is interesting that 58 percent of American men think that burning a draft card is violence, in and of itself” (1972).

Phrases Similar to In and of Itself

  • On its own.
  • By its lonesome.
  • One and only.

Phrases Opposite to In and of Itself

  • In cahoots.
  • With others.
  • Including accomplices.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • In and of itself.

Ways People May Say In and of Itself Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase incorrectly to mean something, including something else. The expression refers to one idea, outcome, or concept, not a duality.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase In and of Itself

You can use “in and of itself” when you want to say something that’s solely responsible for an outcome. It’s on its own or has no other influences to it. The phrase suits social and professional use. Use it to say that the new CRM system at the office is in and of itself capable of handling all internal company communications.

Use it at home to say that the situation is in and of itself responsible for the outcome. Or use it with friends to say the movie is in and of itself a comparison to something else in life. “In and of itself” is more common in corporate and professional communications than in social conversations.

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