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Wiktionary lists "narcist" as an "alternative form of narcissist." A few other online dictionaries list it as well, but none have much information on it.

It doesn't say nonstandard, so does that imply it's an accepted spelling by the bodies that be? Is it just rarely used? Archaic?

The only etymological information I could find was at Wiktionary:

First attested in the 20th century. Probably a borrowing, compare English narcist and German Narzisst. Ultimately from Latin Narcissus, from Ancient Greek Νάρκισσος (Nárkissos). This etymology is incomplete. You can help Wiktionary by elaborating on the origins of this term.

Do you know more about the etymology of "narcist" and whether this is an accepted spelling? Perhaps an academic with access to more in-depth materials can provide further information.

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    What do other dictionaries say?
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 1, 2021 at 14:49
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    Which do most people go with [Google 1-grams]? Do these findings make one the 'preferred version'? Is there any good reason to buck the trend here? Jan 1, 2021 at 14:58
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    The full (subscription only) Oxford English Dictionary is still more or less the "definitive" guide to valid usages. And they say No dictionary entries found for ‘narcist’. Jan 1, 2021 at 15:06
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    @EdwinAshworth That does not matter. I'm caring about being technically correct. I use obscure and archaic words all the time, and old meanings for words all the time. I just care that it's an accepted spelling, or in other words not nonstandard which means it's used colloquially, but proper English speakers don't recognize it. Looks like it's a result of an alternative spelling that came from the Latin or Germanic roots. Personally, I use Wiktionary as it's better maintained and generally has all of the definitions.
    – ZeroPhase
    Jan 1, 2021 at 15:07
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    While there is a lot good in Wiktionary, it is not particularly trustworthy. Anybody can write anything there (and they often do), and they give -no- nuance (like frequency of use, if it is standard, etc).
    – Mitch
    Jan 1, 2021 at 16:03

3 Answers 3

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First, if your professor or even your mom says narcist is unacceptable, it’s unacceptable. You will get no points trying to make a case for a word that floats in clouds of obscurity headed for oblivion.

Yes, narcist is a word—one Wiktionary categorizes as “dated”:

Formerly in common use, and still in occasional use, but now unfashionable;... Dated is not as strong as archaic or obsolete.
Source: Wiktionary Appendix:Glossary: dated

Under “quotations,” Wiktionary cites a few sources using the word.

If you don’t believe in Wiktionary, here’s narcist in Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (Second Edition, Unabridged, 1939):

nar´cism, n.   Narcissism. — nar´cist, n. — nar·cis´tic, adj.

narcism entry

Oxford English Dictionary does not list narcist, but it does list narcism. In the second edition of the OED (1989), narcism makes an appearance under the entry for narcissism, along with the labels erroneous and incorrect:

narcissism, n.
Self-love and admiration that find emotional satisfaction in self-contemplation; occas. (erron.) narcism.
1938   H. A. MURRAY Explor. in Personality iii. 180   Narcism (or Egophilia) is technical for self-love.
1970   HINSIE & CAMPBELL Psychiatric Dict. (ed. 4) 487/2   Narcism, a shortened (and incorrect) form of narcissism.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition (1989) (login required)

However, in the OED’s third and most recent edition (2003), narcism appears as its own entry, without reference to erroneousness or incorrectness. Here we see that narcism was “formed within English, by clipping or shortening”:

narcism, n.
Frequency (in current use): [Band 2*]
[*Band 2 contains words which occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These are almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people. Many are technical terms from specialized discourses.... ]
Origin: Formed within English, by clipping or shortening; perhaps modelled on a German lexical item, or perhaps modelled on a French lexical item. Etymon: NARCISSISM n.
Etymology: Shortened < NARCISSISM n., after German Narzissmus (1924 in Freud) or French narcisme (1918).

Chiefly Psychology.

  = NARCISSISM n.

1938   H. A. MURRAY Explor. in Personality iii. 180   Narcism (or Egophilia) is technical for self-love.
1945   Mod. Lang. Notes 60 198   These birds [in Rilke’s Flamingos] are not supposed to seduce each other (which would be only a natural biological fact) but themselves in their extreme complacent narcism.
1951   J. S. BRUNER in R. R. Blake & G. V. Ramsey Perception v. 142   The theory of schizophrenia as a regression to primary narcism, a withdrawal from object relationships.
1999   Calgary (Alberta) Herald (Nexis) 7 Aug. g9   They may be getting increasingly selfish and self-absorbed because of the narcism increasing, so they tell their spouse that he or she is selfish.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition (2003) (login required)

Noted under the entry narcissism in Sigmund Freud, His Personality, His Teaching, & His School by Fritz Wittels (1924) is:

Some Freudian writers shorten the term to “narcism.”

narcissism entry

Indeed, in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud (translated by G. Stanley Hall and published in 1920), narcistic appears 34 times and narcism 21. These have been shortened from the German versions narzißtische/n (narcissitic) and narzißmus (narcissism) respectively (see Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse).

Nowadays, there are few, if any, acceptable reasons to use the word narcist. In doing so, you would surely issue an invitation to doubt your ability to spell, and the issuance of such an invitation alone shows an error in judgement.

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  • Alright, it sounds like it might be growing in popularity slowly. So, it's like "cromulent" where you just need to use it till it becomes an accepted word.
    – ZeroPhase
    Jan 4, 2021 at 9:10
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    @ZeroPhase I think you took the wrong lesson from Tinfoil's answer. Note the closing "Nowadays, there are few, if any, acceptable reasons to use the word narcist. In doing so, you would surely issue an invitation to doubt your ability to spell, and the issuance of such an invitation alone shows an error in judgement."
    – Mitch
    Jan 4, 2021 at 14:08
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If Google Ngrams tells you it's outranked by a factor 2000, you can be sure it's not a widely accepted spelling.

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When you look at the top hits, you can see that the first one is even taken from a Dutch magazine mistakenly included in the English corpus.

For the record, in Dutch we do use the word 'narcist', and 'narcissist' is wrong. The etymology section you cited is also for the Dutch usage of the word, not for the English. As for why we shortened the word, I don't have a clue.

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  • Is that how it works? What if there's some etymology that supports it as valid?
    – ZeroPhase
    Jan 2, 2021 at 23:45
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    Yes, that's how it works. Language doesn't always follow logical rules.
    – Glorfindel
    Jan 3, 2021 at 8:10
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Yes, it is. Though not widely used. 1

The more popular spelling is: Narcissist

a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish. 2

a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of their own physical or mental attributes. 2

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jan 1, 2021 at 20:44

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