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  1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
  2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.
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Origin of selfish

First recorded in 1630–40; self + -ish1
Related formsself·ish·ly, adverbself·ish·ness, noun

Synonyms for selfish

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for selfish

Contemporary Examples of selfish

Historical Examples of selfish

  • It ain't a selfish feeling, so I know there's some good in it.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • It is a spirit contracted in its views, selfish in its objects.

  • She had no affection for this selfish invalid, this weak, peevish bully.

  • But the feelings of Cornelius in no case deserved consideration—they were so selfish.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • He had raised the boy wrong—he had taught him to be selfish.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for selfish


  1. chiefly concerned with one's own interest, advantage, etc, esp to the total exclusion of the interests of others
  2. relating to or characterized by self-interest
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Derived Formsselfishly, 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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper