Latin borrowing meaning "in and of itself", used in certain fairly specific, idiomatic contexts in casual English. Is typically used with a negative to indicate that a term being used is understood to be imprecise or off-the-mark (i.e., not accurate 'per se') in a case where the term is nevertheless useful to an explanation. Usually followed by an explanation or justification for the use of the term indicated.
It is as well sometimes used preceding a term indicated, especially in more formal (e.g., legal) usage. In these contexts, usually used in the positive to reinforce a characterisation as fundamentally being the case (i.e., 'per se' accurate).
"It's not that I consider it a 'joke' per se. It's just that I don't think it takes the subject quite seriously enough, under the circumstances."
"Sexual advances toward a minor are without exception per se illegal in this state. This is not open to question or challenge."
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