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[sel-fish] /ˈsɛl fɪʃ/
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.
Origin of selfish
1630-40; self + -ish1
Related forms
selfishly, adverb
selfishness, noun
1. self-interested, self-seeking, egoistic; illiberal, parsimonious, stingy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for selfish
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • So selfish, so small, for a man who knows in his heart how great God is.

    Romany of the Snows Gilbert Parker
  • A passion such as hers, in a selfish nature, must have killed her.

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • I'll crowd him right out; I know it may be selfish, but, damn it!

    Vandover and the Brute Frank Norris
  • I knew a boy who was selfish once, and he got into all sorts of trouble.

    Andiron Tales John Kendrick Bangs
  • But you do all this, not from any selfish motives, but from a sense of duty to the clock itself.

    Clocks Jerome K. Jerome
British Dictionary definitions for selfish


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
selfishly, adverb
selfishness, 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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Word Origin and History for selfish

1630s, from self- + -ish. Said in Hacket's life of Archbishop Williams (1693) to have been coined by Presbyterians. In the 17c., synonyms included self-seeking (1620s), self-ended and self-ful.

Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs. [Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene," 1976]
Related: Selfishly; selfishness. Cf. similar formations in German selbstisch, Swedish sjelfvisk, Danish selvisk.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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