Per Say or Per Se? Which is correct?

When you want to convey a concept that infers, “as such” or as being intrinsic, the correct usage is “per se.” 

But, the origins of the phrase come from Latin and are not English in nature. The phrase “per se” emboldens the quality of a statement that’s posh and elegant. It provides refinement in your language to a more sophisticated elevation.


“Per se” is equivocal to “by itself” in Latin with an ancient Greek connection to the phrase, “kath auto.” “Per” was originally “par” and understood as “on account of,” “during,” “by means of” or “through.”

The word “Se” comes from the word “sed.” This means “on one’s own” in addition to “without,” “aside” and/or “apart from.” This is a Latin reflexive pronoun in the accusative and ablative forms. Therefore it refers to “itself,” “herself,” or “himself.”

“Per Se” in Modern Usage

As a fancy way to iterate “as such,” people will still use “per se.” It’s often appropriate for expressing opinions, feelings, truths, facts, or other such solid statements.

Using a dead language like Latin in the context of English isn’t difficult per se, but it does trip people up.

He wasn’t rude per se, but he didn’t respect my opinions either.

I refuse to trust the media and, per se, I never take any of their words as truth.

Why Not Use “Per Say?”

“Per say” is an inappropriate use of the phrase “per se” because the word “say” changes the context. It also adds a verb in place of a preposition or reflexive pronoun. So, it would be better to say “per without,” “per aside,” or “per on account of.” The word “say” means to speak, so using it this way doesn’t make logical sense.

Incorrect: He wasn’t rude per say, but he didn’t respect my opinions either.


Always remember that “per se” is not an English phrase and it comes from Latin, a language that’s hardly, if ever, used. It’s never going to be “per say.” The only correct form is “per se.”