Is there a difference between the meaning of selfish and self-centered? I have seen some using them identically. If there is a difference who would you like to hang out with: a selfish person or a self-centered person?

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    Selfish has a worse connotation. Self-centered can be merely eccentric/goofy/aloof.. but selfish seems to signify evil Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 4:38
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    @Adel this seems to me too but is there really a difference or is just people's feelings attached to a word?
    – lovesh
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 4:55
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    There is a difference, yes. If someone called me Self-centered I might bring up how that's also a geometric statement :) And it denotes symmetry so that means I look goood maybe ;) Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 5:08

4 Answers 4


These two words have different meanings, not merely different connotations. Part of the question was about whom it would be preferable to spend time with, a selfish person or a self-centered person?

One could be self-centered yet not morally bereft of compassion and generosity. Similarly, a self-centered person might want to further his or her objectives, whether or not that meant behaving selfishly in any given situation.

@Adel's comment is similar to my perception. Specifically, that a selfish person has a strong bias toward not giving anything-- time, money, effort, energy, or other support to anyone other than him or herself. And that seems much more unpleasant than the alternative.

A self-centered person would be inclined toward selfish behavior, but not necessarily so. Being self-centered implies finding oneself more fascinating than anything else. But it doesn't necessarily cause such a person to behave in the stingy, venal way associated with selfishness.

  • What do you think about this "A self centered person always keeps his opinion on top of others' opinions". I read this somewhere but cant seem to agree
    – lovesh
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 9:35
  • @lovesh Is that a second question? I don't know what it means to keep one's opinion "on top of others' opinions". I'm sorry, but I don't recall reading that per se. You "cant seem to agree". With what? Self-centered (as well as selfish) people are not necessarily stupid people, and believe their viewpoint is always correct. I think these matters are beyond the scope of this website though. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 10:58
  • "on top of others" means ignoring others opinion in favor of his. And i cant seem to agree with this notion A self centered person always keeps his opinion on top of others' opinions because i feel that being engrossed with yourself does not mean you wouldn't listen to other people or think they are stupid
    – lovesh
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 12:59
  • @lovesh Okay, I hear (well, read, actually) and understand. I do like how you highlighted a comment, by the way. I agree, pardon my poor grammar in my prior comment. A self centered person will not necessarily hold his own opinion above others. Nor will a selfish person either. There is no idiom that I am familiar with regarding the keeping of an opinion on top of others. Is there something further I can do to respond to your question? I don't know what you are asking of me exactly. Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 3:28

Although they appear to be similar in meaning, the differences are subtle.

Selfish (of a person, action, or motive) means lacking consideration for others, and/or is concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

In contrast, self-centered means being preoccupied with oneself and one's affairs.


Another way of looking at it is as follows: A self-centered person sees only himself as the centre of everything and does not consider what his actions would mean to others. For e.g. blind people are quite independent and do not really want help from others, unless they ask for it. A self-centered person would reach out to a blind person, catch his hand and help him across the road, not really bothering to find out if that person wanted help in the first place. Only his actions count, he wants the world to think the best of him. He is not bothered about the feelings of the blind man.

A selfish person would not bother to help the blind man in the first place. If he must, it is conditional (whether he has time, is not too inconvenienced, etc.).


A selfish person wants to receive more than they give. They will happily give if they think that their return will be larger than their investment.

A self-centered person needs to be the focus of attention. All eyes must be on them no matter what they're doing, selfish or altruistic.

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    i think a self-centered person doesn't care where everybody's eyes are. He just keeps his eyes on/around himself
    – lovesh
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 20:10

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