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I was trying to convey my opinion about a person I knew, when I faced this question. I had to describe a person who cared only about himself: his personal well-being, wealth, luxury, happiness are his only priorities in life. He does not really care for his family members, or spare some time or thought to alleviate their problems.

What adjective is best suited to describe such a person? My instantaneous choice was along the lines of self-important or egotistic, but these adjectives intend “thinking highly of oneself ”, which is not what I meant.

Nouns describing such a person are also welcome. I am looking for a word as little disparaging as possible.

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    Have you checked a thesaurus on such words as egotistic and self-important? – zpletan Apr 24 '12 at 13:15
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    I am not certain there would be a word for these traits that is NOT disparaging. – JLG Apr 24 '12 at 13:37
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    Several posters suggest words like "egotistical". But this means someone who believes himself to be better than those around him, which is not the same as being selfish. Someone could have a very high opinion of himself and conclude that he therefore has a duty to use his incredible talents to help others. Likewise someone could think of himself as a person of quite ordinary abilities but still only care about his own welfare. Perhaps being egotistical and being selfish often go together, but they're not the same thing. – Jay Apr 24 '12 at 14:25
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    Just to be clear: you are looking for a term that describes a person who might think about other people but does not actually care about them - they only care about their own well-being, while still be fully aware of the problems of others. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 24 '12 at 14:31

14 Answers 14

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How about "selfish" or "self-centered."

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    The OP's description is almost the exact definition of selfish: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. – Cameron Apr 24 '12 at 13:17
  • self-involved too (as mentioned in definition of narcissist below) – driftcatcher Aug 22 '16 at 22:23
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A narcissist:

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

The adjective would be narcissistic.

  • I think you named the correct word. The person Shyam described has already pathologic problems and therefore narcissistic is the best fit. – schlingel Apr 25 '12 at 7:35
  • @schlingel: A narcissist doesn't necessarily have to be pathologically narcissistic (only in the psychological definition of the word, see the second definition here), but I think you're right in this case ;-) – Amos M. Carpenter Apr 25 '12 at 7:53
  • Named after the myth of Narcissus, which guess I take for granted as a native speaker, but is probably interesting to learn for a non-native speaker! – driftcatcher Aug 22 '16 at 22:21
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Self-absorbed comes to mind. It is defined as: Excessively self-involved.

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You can call such a person egocentric:

thinking only about yourself and not about what other people need or want

3

Self-serving is another word that roughly means "only caring about oneself," as the formal definition for self-serving is "asborbed with oneself."

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There's nothing wrong with egoist, or egoistic, for that matter. It fits just fine - yes, it implies that a person has a very high self-esteem, too, but primarily it denotes a person whose actions are governed by self-interest. Such a person doesn't give much thought to others. EGOIST / EGOCENTRIC would be my choices, widely recognized by all speakers, since these words exist in most languages.

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Self-absorbed: preoccupied with one's self in some fashion.

Self-involved: Concerned or absorbed primarily or only in one's own interests or activities.

These can have a very neutral connotation. While many of the responses suggest that a self-absorbed person is uncaring about others, it does not necessarily have to be in a negative sense. For example, that person may be asocial or non-social, rather than antisocial.

Here is an example: "There is a hermit living in that canyon, but he is harmless. He is self-absorbed and minds his own business. You can go there without being bothered."

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Conceit or Egotist are the best I can think of.

NOAD defines conceit as excessive pride(1) in oneself.

OED defines egotist as a person who is excessively conceited or absorbed in themselves.

(1)PRIDE: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely ammired. — NOAD

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I am going to suggest "uncaring". You could also use "indifferent", and "apathetic", as in:

He is indifferent/apathetic to the concerns of others.

You could also use "unkind", though to some people that might imply actual malice, rather.

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I'd suggest "shallow" as a nice way of saying that they are overly self-involved with superficial priorities.

To use Internet slang to describe this person, they could be described as a "Scumbag Steve" (from Reddit).

The other term that comes up when I think of an excessively selfish person would be douchebag (or douche). However, this is a VERY disparaging term.

  • The attribute of being shallow can be held by someone who is outgoing and not egocentric. To be shallow means not to have a significant understanding or knowledge about something, or to give an impression to that effect. Also, douchebag is a general-purpose pejorative that could easily apply to anyone. E.g, "That douchebag's out collecting money for those free-loaders." – Canis Lupus Apr 24 '12 at 21:02
  • Similarly, you could be self-centered without being shallow. Some people obsess over deeper topics (such as your own personal spiritual/emotional goals or life's plan) while remaining steadfastly self-centered. I think the combination of shallow and self-centered works well to convey the person in question. – Zoot May 7 '12 at 14:34
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My suggestion : Self-serving and Ego-maniacal.

Reason : I find this choice of the 'self' prefixed word most appropriate.

Self-absorbed can be defended as someone just plain oblivious to outer life ;

Self-centered doesn't emphasize on behaviour or deeds, unlike self-serving, which immediately brings to mind the 'him/her/my self above all' .

As for 'egomaniacal', I believe it to be a better fit as opposed to 'narcissistic' because the latter doesn't necessarily imply the drive for pursuits, only choosing oneself over others, if need be. Not to mention, some people prefer to use - and see the usage of, thereby - the word strictly in a clinical aspect.

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A person who evidences these priorities to clearly could be described as self-interested.

From Oxford Dictionaries:

Motivated by one’s personal interest or advantage, especially without regard for others.

An example:

Years of observation and introspection have led many to the conclusion that people are self-interested creatures.

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Self aware is non-negatively connotative; not all forms of caring for oneself need to be selfish.

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    Good one, but self-aware does not have the sense of being aware only of oneself. Moreover it has a contemplative touch to it. – Bravo Apr 25 '12 at 3:33
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The Answer you are looking for is specifically called a sociopath.

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    -1 One definition for sociopath is "someone who behaves in a dangerous or violent way towards other people and does not feel guilty about such behavior". That seems rather more severe than OP's question regarding "only caring about oneself". Please explain why you consider it a suitable answer. – TrevorD Aug 12 '13 at 18:36

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