16

"Selfish" could mean anything from taking the last cookie to killing someone for the last cookie. Is there a harsher word for selfish that emphasises that it's wrong and/or hurtful?

  • 9
    If you're going to kill someone for the last cookie, I'd surmise that you are "sociopathic". – Oldbag Mar 9 '15 at 15:42
  • 14
    How about cut-throat? – Ian MacDonald Mar 9 '15 at 15:43
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    Cookie-monstrous. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 9 '15 at 15:44
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    I'll throw in "parasitic," selfish at the expense of others. – Qaz Mar 10 '15 at 3:18
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    @Qaz Worth noting that a parasite relies on the host to survive. That's certainly not the case for cookies. – Will S Mar 10 '15 at 20:08

10 Answers 10

30

Synonyms like "egoistic", "egocentric", "self-centered" "self-loving", etc, are no stronger than selfish. I would use an adverb before "selfish" lest its exact meaning be changed. "Egocentric" and "self-centered" are not exactly the same as selfish.

He is extremely/incredibly/profoundly/exceptionally/monstrously/etc selfish.

  • Selfishness has connotations of both greed and pride (egotism), so if one wished to maintain that blend of meanings, using the modifying adverb is a good approach. – hardmath Mar 10 '15 at 14:12
22

Egomaniacal:

  • overly concerned with one's own desires, needs, or interests

    • a brilliant but egomaniacal urban planner who ruthlessly sought to impose his vision of the ideal cityscape (M-W)
12

Avaricious denotes a kind of selfishness that knows no limits.

From the link:

avaricious | adjective | av·a·ri·cious | \ˌa-və-ˈri-shəs\

  • greedy of gain; excessively acquisitive especially in seeking to hoard riches

an avaricious scheme to con the elderly couple out of thousands of dollars

  • 5
    My impression is that avaricious has more to do with the greed for material and wealth rather than the type of egocentricity that is characteristic of excessively selfish people. – Michael Lai Mar 10 '15 at 0:05
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    @MichaelLai You are correct, but "selfish" and "avaricious" are probably only 1 step away from each other in a thesaurus. Also, the questioner posed the question in the context of material greed, making this an apt choice. – user113120 Mar 10 '15 at 12:20
5

I respectfully disagree that an adverb is the ideal route. English is the richest lexicon that has ever existed: you have an arsenal of words from which to choose the ideal way to fillet your subject.

Your question is short, but you asked for a word that conveys two meanings: selfishness, and that the selfishness is "wrong." I will interpret that as morally wrong.

  1. We say people are inconsiderate when they are selfish in a situation when it is wrong to be selfish.
  2. Self-seeking and self-serving both connote selfishness that is wrong.
  3. In specific situations, such as the case of the cookie caper, narrower words are fantastic: gluttonous and greedy are so wrong that Christians list them as two of the seven worst sins.
  4. Stingy and parsimonious are clearly wrong, but the selfish aspect is not as strongly present as some of the other words.

Which do you feel has more punch?

He ate all of the cookies again. He is extremely selfish.

or

All the cookies are gone. That gluttonous pig.

Whether you want a broad word or a narrow term, there is almost certainly something more provocative than "extremely."

  • 4
    -1: English is not the richest lexicon ever to have existed; quite the opposite: it is notorious for its relative lack of range and precision when compared to many other languages. This is the point being touched on when, for example, adult learners of English complain that they can't adequately express their feelings because English speakers use the same word ("love") to describe how they feel about an old friend, how they feel about their spouse, and how they feel about a cheeseburger. – Matthew Najmon Mar 10 '15 at 15:42
  • @MatthewNajmon I double your words. English is my second language (being Portuguese my first one), and is almost impossible for me readily translate a big text from Portuguese to English without massive losses in meaning or ridiculously increase in the word count. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Mar 10 '15 at 21:01
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    No language is comprehensive. Neruda could only have written in Spanish. Confucius could not have taught in any Indo-European language. There are different ways to count lexemes, but the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language says English has 500,000 lexemes, French 187k(?), Spanish 135k(?), and all others much fewer. If it is "notorious," what are your cites? English is not comprehensive, but it is more versatile and rich than any other language. Furthermore, downvoting an answer because you disagree with a minor point is petty and misses the point of having a voting system. – hunterhogan Mar 10 '15 at 21:58
  • @HunterHogan I agree with your bold words, but not fully about lexemes. English has, in very many cases, two different lexemes that mean exactly the same; one originating from a Germanic language, the other from a Romanic language (mostly Latin/French). This effectively doubles the required lexemes for the same amount of expressionism. The greater morphism of Romanic languages reduces the required lexemes even further. And then, at least in German, Lehnworte and Fremdworte are not counted towards the lexeme count, while they clearly are in English... – Alexander Mar 11 '15 at 12:37
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    +1 for not using adverbs. I have no idea why people are hating on this answer based on a line I'm sure was not meant to hurt anyone. Whether English has or doesn't have the richest lexicon is not very relevant here. – Tushar Raj Mar 13 '15 at 20:26
2

Exploitative.

One wants his/her own profit at others' cost. He/she does not care about others.

2

If you're really looking for a word that means "would kill for a cookie", then I think you need something a bit stronger than what I see suggested so far. Suggestions include: psychopathic, psychotic, psycho, homicidal, maniac, murderous, deranged, unhinged, demented, narcissistic, megalomaniacal.

  • totally narcissistic and/or megalomanical – albert Mar 11 '15 at 3:38
1

The term stingy has a fairly negative connotation

Unwilling to give or spend; ungenerous:

his employer is stingy and idle

he was stingy with his information

Oxford Dictionaries Online

The term niggardly is very pejorative

grudgingly mean about spending or granting: begrudging

Merriam-Webster

However it is rarely used, most likely because it is so similar sounding to a racial epithet. See this usage note from Oxford Dictionaries Online

The words niggard and niggardly have no connection with the highly offensive term nigger, but because of the similarity of sound and its negative meaning of ‘mean, ungenerous,’ many people are uncomfortable with using it for fear of causing offense, and in the US it is now widely avoided.

1

Self-obsessed carries implications that the subject thinks of little else besides himself. For an intensifying adverb, I would try pathologically self-obsessed.

-5

Not a quite a synonym for selfish, but, based on your example, unscrupulous might be what you're looking for.

-6

single-minded can be deceptively stronger than selfish.

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    "being single-minded is not evocative of being selfish. – Misti Mar 9 '15 at 17:51
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    I am single-mindedly devoted to charitable causes... so I guess that would make me selfishly selfless, or something? – HopelessN00b Mar 10 '15 at 2:32

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