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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 selfishness
  • Successful play necessarily requires a degree of selfishness, but across the animal kingdom species have evolved social behaviors.
  • Given my drive, ambition, and boundless selfishness this is a bit of a stunner.
  • No, an ugly work environment is caused by selfish people and one key sign of selfishness is being late.
  • The inception of their story is based more on animosity, manipulation and selfishness.
  • The problems caused by the selfishness of developed countries then still causes problems today.
  • It is our selfishness as a species that is driving other species to extinction.
  • AA teaches that extreme selfishness is the main problem an alcoholic faces, drunk or sober.
  • selfishness is an evolved behavior to protect oneself.
  • To argue for continued use of oil and coal is insane and it is driven by political ideology, selfishness and greed.
  • There is no more selfishness to wanting to smoke marijuana than there is to wanting to drink alcohol.
British Dictionary definitions for selfishness


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 selfishness



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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