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See also: altruïsm


Alternative forms[edit]


English from 1853. From French altruisme, which was coined in 1830 by Auguste Comte from autrui (of or to others) +‎ -isme, from Old French, from Latin alteri, dative of alter (other) (from which also English alter).[1] Apparently inspired by the French Latin legal phrase l'autrui, from le bien, le droit d'autrui (the good, the right of the other). Introduced into English by George Henry Lewes in 1853, in his translation Comte’s Philosophy of the Sciences, 1, xxi.


altruism (countable and uncountable, plural altruisms)

  1. Regard for others, both natural and moral without regard for oneself; devotion to the interests of others; brotherly kindness.
    Synonyms: selflessness, philanthropy
    Antonyms: egoism, selfishness, misanthropy
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 16, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      The preposterous altruism too! [] Resist not evil. It is an insane immolation of self—as bad intrinsically as fakirs stabbing themselves or anchorites warping their spines in caves scarcely large enough for a fair-sized dog.
    • 1995, George E. Vaillant, The Wisdom of the Ego, page 68,
      Altruism allows doing for others as one would be done by. Unlike reaction formation, which also gives to the object what the self desires, altruism leaves the self at least partly gratified. Unlike reaction formation, altruism tempers asceticism with pleasure. Unlike passive aggression and martyrdom, altruism allows the object to feel blessed and not afflicted. Altruism attracts people to the user; martyrdom repels them even as it holds them close in chains.
  2. (biology, sociobiology) Action or behaviour that benefits another or others at some cost to the performer.
    Synonym: philanthropy
    • 2013 December 24, Laura Spinney, Goodwill hunting: Random ants of kindness, New Scientist,
      Altruism is a behaviour of an individual that benefits another at its own expense. [] She decided to investigate what motivates ants to undertake these dangerous missions, where they risk getting trapped themselves or, worse, eaten by predatory antlion larvae, which dig pits and lurk, semi-concealed, at the bottom with their jaws wide open. Such apparently selfless rescue behaviour is seen by many as one of the purest forms of altruism. [] Being nice to relatives is not pure altruism because they share your genes so, by helping them, you promote your own genetic heritage.

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, “altruism”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.




altruism n (uncountable)

  1. altruism


Swedish Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia sv


(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)



altruism c

  1. altruism


Declension of altruism 
Indefinite Definite
Nominative altruism altruismen
Genitive altruisms altruismens

Related terms[edit]