[ al-troo-iz-uhm ]
/ ˈæl truˌɪz əm /
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the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism).
Animal Behavior. behavior by an animal that may be to its disadvantage but that benefits others of its kind, as a warning cry that reveals the location of the caller to a predator.
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Origin of altruism

1850–55; <French altruisme, equivalent to autru(i) others (<Vulgar Latin *alterui, oblique form of Latin alter other (>French autre), with -ui from cui to whom; -l- restored from Latin alter) + -isme-ism; popularized through translation of A. Comte, who perhaps coined it, on the model of égoismeegoism


hy·per·al·tru·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use altruism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for altruism

/ (ˈæltruːˌɪzəm) /

the principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others
the philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others
Compare egoismSee also utilitarianism

Derived forms of altruism

altruist, nounaltruistic, adjectivealtruistically, adverb

Word Origin for altruism

C19: from French altruisme, from Italian altrui others, from Latin alterī, plural of alter other
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

Scientific definitions for altruism

[ ăltrōō-ĭz′əm ]

Instinctive behavior that is detrimental or without reproductive benefit to the individual but that favors the survival or spread of that individual's genes. The willingness of a subordinate member of a wolf pack to forgo mating and help care for the dominant pair's pups is an example of altruistic behavior. While the individual may not reproduce, or may reproduce less often, its behavior helps ensure that a close relative does successfully reproduce, thus passing on a large share of the altruistic individual's genetic material.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for altruism

[ (al-trooh-iz-uhm) ]

A selfless concern for others.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.