What means selfish

Selfish Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

self·​ish ˈsel-fish 


: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others


: arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others

a selfish act


: being an actively replicating repetitive sequence of nucleic acid that serves no known function

selfish DNA

also : being genetic material solely concerned with its own replication

selfish genes


  • egocentric
  • egoistic
  • egoistical
  • egomaniacal
  • egotistic
  • egotistical
  • narcissistic
  • self-absorbed
  • self-centered
  • self-concerned
  • self-infatuated
  • self-interested
  • self-involved
  • self-loving
  • self-obsessed
  • self-oriented
  • self-preoccupied
  • self-regarding
  • self-seeking
  • self-serving
  • solipsistic

See all Synonyms & Antonyms in Thesaurus 

Example Sentences

She's interested only in her own selfish concerns. I wish he'd spend less time with his friends and more time with me. Am I being selfish?

Recent Examples on the Web He’s selfish, pessimistic and wants nothing to do with either side of the brewing conflict. —Sydney Odman, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Nov. 2022 In the cultural consciousness, only children are frequently pegged as weirdos: maladjusted, selfish, spoiled, uncompromising, or just unusually precocious. —Chiara Dello Joio, The Atlantic, 1 Nov. 2022 To refuse to answer felt selfish, careless, a waste of potential influence for a girl born to people who were never given such a chance. —Sarah Smarsh, Harper’s Magazine , 26 Oct. 2022 Our main man, Julian Kaye (Jon Bernthal), has not committed one selfish act in his sad life. —Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 19 Sep. 2022 The Princeton Offense was even adopted by NBA teams, despite the league’s reputation for selfish, one-on-one play. —John Otis, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Aug. 2022 Owned by Stephanie Morimoto and her co-partner Venus Williams, Asutra creates products that help deflate the notion that self-care is selfish. —Jacorey Moon, Good Housekeeping, 26 Nov. 2022 This is all just rhetoric to convince ourselves to be selfish. —Josh Kun, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2022 Bale, who turns 33 in July, is out of a contract at Real Madrid and is coming for more selfish reasons. —Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'selfish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1628, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler

The first known use of selfish was in 1628

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Cite this Entry



“Selfish.Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/selfish. Accessed 27 Dec. 2022.

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Kids Definition



self·​ish ˈsel-fish 

: taking care of oneself without thought for others

selfishly adverb

selfishness noun

Medical Definition



self·​ish ˈsel-fish 

: being an actively replicating repetitive sequence of nucleic acid that serves no known function

selfish DNA

also : being genetic material solely concerned with its own replication

selfish genes

More from Merriam-Webster on


Nglish: Translation of selfish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of selfish for Arabic Speakers

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Merriam-Webster unabridged

Selfish Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.

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[ sel-fish ]

/ ˈsɛl fɪʃ /

See the most commonly confused word associated with selfish

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See synonyms for selfish on Thesaurus.com

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devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.


1 self-interested, self-seeking, egoistic; illiberal, parsimonious, stingy.

See synonyms for selfish on Thesaurus.com



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Question 1 of 7

Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of selfish

First recorded in 1630–40; self + -ish1


self·ish·ly, adverbself·ish·ness, noun

Words nearby selfish

self-instructional, self-insurance, self-insure, self-insurer, self-interest, selfish, selfishness, self-judgment, self-justification, self-justifying, self-knowledge

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

Words related to selfish

egotistical, greedy, narcissistic, self-centered, egocentric, egoistic, egoistical, egomaniacal, egotistic, hoggish, mean, mercenary, miserly, narrow, narrow-minded, parsimonious, prejudiced, self-indulgent, self-interested, self-seeking

How to use selfish in a sentence

  • For her postdoctoral work, Zanders focused on a particular type of dustup caused by some selfish genes — genes that propagate themselves even if it hurts the host.

    This year’s SN 10 scientists aim to solve some of science’s biggest challenges|Science News Staff|September 30, 2020|Science News

  • The most effective strategy was the selfish strategy where everyone tried to go as fast as possible.

    Complexity Scientist Beats Traffic Jams Through Adaptation|Rodrigo Pérez Ortega|September 28, 2020|Quanta Magazine

  • Their response to the pandemic and this great work that pharma people are doing has reminded many of their capacities and how they can be helpful to the world—as opposed to the industry being viewed as kind of selfish and uncooperative.

    When Bill Gates thinks we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine—and why that won’t be the end of the pandemic|cleaf2013|September 21, 2020|Fortune

  • The next day the mayor called the partiers “absolutely reckless and selfish,” and she closed the beach parking to make an example of them.

    The Climate Crisis Is Happening Right Now. Just Look at California’s Weekend. |by Elizabeth Weil|September 9, 2020|ProPublica

  • I feel selfish in a sense because I’m one of the lucky ones.

    We need a COVID vaccine. We also need to figure out how to get it to people|Sy Mukherjee|August 27, 2020|Fortune

  • Emetophobia tends to compromise my relationships, turning me into a selfish jerk.

    Why My Norovirus Panic Makes Me Sick|Lizzie Crocker|January 5, 2015|DAILY BEAST

  • Self-marriage is the ultimate brand extension of a self-obsessed, selfish populus.

    Why Singles Should Say ‘I Don’t’ to The Self-Marriage Movement|Tim Teeman|December 30, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Scrooge is still with us, not just in print but embodied in the cold hearts and selfish calculations of misanthropes everywhere.

    How Dickens and Scrooge Saved Christmas|Clive Irving|December 22, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • What should have been a moment of reckoning for a selfish, serial liar instead ended with us pitying him.

    The Walking Dead’s ‘Self Help’: A Grim Show Displays Its Comedy Streak, and A Major Reveal|Melissa Leon|November 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • What if an affair is a process of positive self-discovery rather than selfish carnal impulses?

    Why You’re Happily Married and Having an Affair|Ryan Selzer|November 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • His ambition is a purely selfish one, while mine is distinctly benevolent.

    The Pit Town Coronet, Volume I (of 3)|Charles James Wills

  • No, no,” added Mr. Pickwick more cheerfully, “it would be selfish and ungrateful.

    The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, v. 2(of 2)|Charles Dickens

  • One would imagine, to hear these (p. 171) people talk, that smoking was the only selfish indulgence in the world.

    Tobacco; Its History, Varieties, Culture, Manufacture and Commerce|E. R. Billings.

  • "I fear, for my part, it is only a very selfish pleasure," he said a trifle unctuously.

    Three More John Silence Stories|Algernon Blackwood

  • Let no opportunity be missed of exposing the true character of the vile and selfish agitators of the Anti-corn-law league.

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXXIX. January, 1844. Vol. LV.|Various

British Dictionary definitions for selfish


/ (ˈsɛlfɪʃ) /


chiefly concerned with one's own interest, advantage, etc, esp to the total exclusion of the interests of others

relating to or characterized by self-interest

Derived forms of selfish

selfishly, adverbselfishness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Egoists are people who care only about themselves, think about satisfying their own needs only.

It is very difficult to interact, make friends with such an individual, because he ignores the requests of others, does not think about how they feel good about themselves. nine0015

At the very beginning of communication, it is sometimes impossible to understand that a person is selfish. This becomes clear only over time, when relationships develop, when common deeds, plans, goals appear.

In order not to lose time, not to contact an egoist, thereby harming himself, a person must be able to recognize someone who is indifferent to the feelings of others. He can do this if he pays attention to the words uttered by the interlocutor. Egoists very often utter several phrases.

I want

With the help of this phrase, a selfish person voices his desires, preferences. It seems to him that those around him should do everything he says, do everything the way he planned.

You owe everything to the Egoist.

. He will constantly remind people of this, reproach them for not fulfilling their obligations. Such an individual can come to the boss, demand a promotion, referring to the fact that he does not spare himself at work, he tries his best.

I don't like it

A selfish person will not endure discomfort for a minute. He won't stand in line with the others. The egoist will prefer to break into the office with the first cunning, deceit. He will take two parking spaces at once, without thinking that other motorists also need to stand somewhere. The egoist will go around the traffic jam on the side of the road, because it is not his status to waste his time waiting.

Don't criticize me

A selfish person can't stand remarks and criticism. If an egoist is pointed out to shortcomings in his work, to a stain on his shirt, then in response you can hear a huge number of unflattering words and insults. The egoist will try to present the interlocutor not in the best light, so as not to be criticized. nine0003

Look at my jacket

Egoists love compliments. To get them constantly, they will run up against them, draw the attention of others to changes in their appearance, thereby demanding praise. When compliments are given, the selfish person will enjoy them. When they finish enough, they start talking about other people's problems, the egoist will interrupt the conversation.

Do what I say

Selfish personalities like to command. They consider their point of view to be the only correct one, therefore they demand that others listen to them. An egoist can take leadership positions, but it will be very difficult for the team to work with him. nine0003

Did you say anything about it?

An egoist can listen to an interlocutor out of politeness, but everything he says will be forgotten very quickly. There is no carelessness here. This happens because the selfish individual thinks only about how to show himself in a favorable light, how to get the best possible result with the minimum amount of effort.

I am sure

An individual who is inherently selfish often talks about himself. In his speech there is only the pronoun "I". Such behavior annoys people, because no one wants to constantly talk about the same person. nine0003

You don't think about me

Everyone should think about a selfish person, everyone should satisfy his needs, take care of him. That's what the egoist thinks. He must always make a choice, he must manage other people's time. The use of this phrase confirms this.

If one of the above phrases once flashed in a conversation, then this does not mean anything. But if a person constantly repeats all the above expressions, then we can conclude that egoism is inherent in him. nine0003

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Egoism - Psychologos

January 01, 2006, 08:19

Film "N.

I. Kozlov and Marina Smirnova"

Film "Revolver"

Egoism - (from "I") - an attitude when a person thinks only (or mainly) about his personal interests and his own benefit, but does not think about the interests of others (or thinks last) . When everything connected with him seems more important or interesting to him. Often the name egoist is used simply as a negative label, demonstrating a negative attitude towards a person without serious grounds.

"An egoist is a bad person. This is a person who doesn't think about me all the time!" nine0003

Selfishness in modern culture is considered a natural, but not the most beautiful human manifestation, therefore, people like to present many really selfish actions and manifestations as not at all selfish, but manifesting their lofty feelings and motives. First of all, it concerns love. Love is not always selfish, but in its mass variants behind love there are, first of all, selfish motives.

Are people always selfish? - No. People are different, actions are different. The actions of many people are not selfish precisely because they are impulsive and automatic, and when performing them, a person does not think about his own interests and benefits precisely because he does not think about anything at all. The wind is not selfish, and the actions of many generally selfish girls are not selfish, because they have a wind in their heads ... But there is also no reason to say that every thinking person always takes care of himself only. Everything is more interesting and more difficult...

The priority of one's own interests over others', if it is just an automatic program, is not selfishness.

If such a priority happened without thinking, by accident, it is not about us, but about what sometimes happens to us. This is a moment of behavior, but not a personality trait.

A person is not so much what happens to him as what he does to himself, in what direction he changes himself. If a person allows himself this program of priority of his own interests over others, supports this program and defends this program, this is already a personality trait, this is already selfishness. nine0003

Egoism is different from egoism. Ethicotypes Parasite and Consumer are both egoists, but the attitude towards them is different. The consumer is an egoist, since he is only interested in him and he only cares about himself, but at the same time he lives on his own and takes care of himself, at his own expense, which removes most moral claims against him. Many of these Consumers are very likeable and well-respected people who bring great benefits to people and society. More often it happens when the egoism of the Consumer takes the form of reasonable egoism. nine0003

The main claims against egoists are connected with egoism performed by the Parasite - a person for whom it is natural to take care of himself at the expense of others. In this case, selfishness turns into an unattractive spectacle: anyone but me is to blame for what happened today, I am the most tired today, of course, and the salary must be paid to me first of all. Others are not human at all.

The opposite of egoism is not altruism, but the position of the Creator, when a person takes care of himself and other people. nine0003

Selfishness can be rational and irrational, without a head. In the first case, the egoist evaluates the possible consequences of his actions and acts in accordance with expediency. In the second case, the egoist acts impulsively and short-sightedly.

An egoist without a head is a funny and sad sight. He needs to get into the subway car, he stands across the door, tries to get in, they don’t let him in, because he has to get out first, he is sincerely indignant at this situation. Having reached his station, he, with no less sincerity, is indignant at the fact that they blocked the exit (the same as him) and do not allow him to pass. Behind such egoism is egocentrism - the inability and unaccustomed to understand the situation of other people. nine0003

A rational egoist does not always evoke sympathy, but usually evokes respect. Such a person realizes when, why and why he neglects the good of another person for his own. He understands that his strength, kindness, morality and ethics are not enough, in this situation "for everyone." Therefore, realizing the evil that he causes, he puts himself and his loved ones at the forefront. At the same time, he does not suffer from conscience, does not reflect and sleeps peacefully at night, not seeing nightmares.

Moral and ethical principles must be instilled in a rational egoist who has a head. It is useless to talk about ethics to an egoist without a head, he must first be taught to "look at himself from the third position." By the way, this may be enough. Another option is to simply teach them to behave decently. Let him remain headless as he was, but he will behave much better. nine0003

Selfishness is not the best human trait, but, if you do not take into account extreme options (the Parasite's selfishness), it is not the worst. In comparison with a thoughtless existence, when people do not think at all and may not even take care of themselves, reasonable egoism is more attractive and quite a worthy option. Thinking is good, taking care of yourself is right. At the same time, reasonable egoism is not the height of personality development, it has its limitations. If you have already learned to live like a reasonable egoist, take an interest in the position of the Creator: there are great advantages in this! nine0003

It is curious that in the Russian mentality expediency is practically a synonym for selfish, selfish behavior and is not honored as something "American". It is difficult for the average Russian layman to imagine that one can reasonably and consciously act not only for oneself, but also for someone else, so selfless actions are identified with actions “from the heart”, based on feelings, without a head.

A typical example: in the article "A Son Is Twelve: Raising Responsibility", a smart dad wrote how he cultivates in his son the habit of thinking "why" he does this or that. Commentary on this article: "I see an adult young man with a question, why should I take care of my parents, show respect for them, for what purpose? Now I am independent and I no longer need my parents. " nine0003

We responded to this comment like this: “Hmm. Do you think that parents can only be loved if for nothing, “without a head”? If parents really raised children, children have values, and not just needs, and children know how to already take care of worthy people. That is, about parents - in the first place, and precisely because the parents themselves set an example for them in this."

Self-love, selfishness and love for others

Self-love is not selfishness. If a person thinks about others and takes care of them, then his love for himself is in no way connected with egoism, it is easy and natural for him to love both himself and those around him. The reality, however, is that those who are preoccupied with self-love, at least at first, become more selfish - simply because the focus in this case begins to be paid to themselves. At the same time, love for oneself and love for others are connected. He who does not love himself is usually incapable of loving others. Love for others turns out to be richer and fuller if a person has the experience of self-love, and vice versa: self-love is honed, refined on the experience of love for other people. Only by learning to truly love other people does a person begin to love himself not blindly or crookedly, but attentively and intelligently. See → nine0003

  • Egoism
  • Author N.I. Kozlov
  • Person
  • Person
  • Person and society
  • Person, society

Comments (8):

Guest, 08 February 2014, 22:32

How far are we from the people! ;)

Guest, February 09, 2014, 07:11 PM

The truth, as always, is somewhere nearby! In my opinion, many of your conclusions are not entirely correct, and some are incorrect in principle! "An egoist is a bad person. This is a person who does not think about me all the time!" If so? - look in the mirror and direct anyone to it. Why are we not born selfish? And who told you that this is true? Reasonable selfishness . .. Yes! An acceptable concept, but it must be developed and educated. It will not fall on you like manna from heaven. If we talk about the Egoist, then the Creator is not interested in his position!? The egoist is the bearer of the EGO! What do you think? What is this? ;) nine0003



Guest, March 22, 2020, 01:09 AM

We are all selfish somewhere inside, aren't we? Don't you have a right to have your rights? Have! So you are already an egoist, that's all. The main thing is to understand and evaluate the situation of your egoism, how much it is inflated in us and what follows from this. This means that we must carefully monitor our thoughts and actions, and if we feel that our egoism has crossed the line in relation to another person, we must stop, realize, think and take the opposite action, i.e. altruism :)

Guest, August 15, 2014, 10:30 pm

Entertaining psychology.

Mikhail, February 9, 2015, 01:40

The opposite of egoism is not altruism, but the position of the Creator, when a person takes care of himself and other people. Why? The Creator is just as reasonable an egoist as the consumer, it is just more painful for him to endure inaction when he needs help. In other words, the anguish and remorse of refusing to help will be much more acute.



N.I. Kozlov, February 09, 2015, 04:18 PM

Mikhail, not everyone will agree with you. You might be interested in the article http://www.psychologos.ru/articles/view/kazhdyy_zabotitsya_tolko_o_sebe_dvoe_zn__pravda_li_eto_vop_zn_" target="_blank">Everyone cares only about himself: is this true? 07:32 AM 2019

Love your neighbor as yourself This is the whole point

Guest July 15, 2022 19:34

At the beginning of the article, the following thought sounds: “Love is not always selfish, but in its mass variants, love is primarily driven by selfish motives.” But the question arises, can the concepts of love and selfishness have something in common?

For reflection, this is how the Bible describes true love: “Love is patient, kind, it does not envy and does not boast, it is not proud, it cannot be rude, it does not seek profit for itself, it is not quick-tempered and does not remember evil. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. She covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). nine0003

Considering that people are created in the image of God, whose main quality is “love”, then the question arises, where did this negative quality come from?

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Selfishness in modern culture is considered a natural, but not the most beautiful human manifestation, therefore, people like to present many really egoistic actions and manifestations as not at all selfish, but manifesting their lofty feelings and motives. nine0003

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An only child

This is a myth - that the only child in the family "whether we like it or not" grows up as an egoist. It all depends on the upbringing and attitude of parents to his "uniqueness". I am an only child, and such collectivists are still to be found. I have one child who took care of all the kids in the yard and perfectly found a common language with the elders.

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According to psychoanalysis, that part of the human personality that is perceived as the Self and is in contact with the outside world through perception. The self plans, evaluates, remembers, and otherwise responds to physical and social environments. Ego is the ability to see oneself as different from others. Ego in the concept of E. Bern - Adult. In Eastern concepts, the analog of the Ego is Awareness.

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Jan 01 2006

Everyone cares only about himself: is it true? nine0003

Are people always selfish? - No. People are different, actions are different.

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Self-love, selfishness and love for others

Self-love is not selfishness. Self-love may or may not be selfish.

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