Altruism Definition

Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.
Webster's New World
Instinctive behavior that is detrimental to the individual but favors the survival or spread of that individual's genes, as by benefiting its relatives.
American Heritage
The doctrine that the general welfare of society is the proper goal of an individual's actions.
Webster's New World
The definition of altruism is caring about other people and their needs without regard for your own needs.
Charity is an example of altruism.

Regard for others, both natural and moral without regard for oneself; devotion to the interests of others; brotherly kindness; selflessness; contrasted with egoism or selfishness.

Instinctive behavior that is detrimental or without reproductive benefit to the individual but that favors the survival or spread of that individual's genes. The willingness of a subordinate member of a wolf pack to forgo mating and help care for the dominant pair's pups is an example of altruistic behavior. While the individual may not reproduce, or may reproduce less often, its behavior helps ensure that a close relative does successfully reproduce, thus passing on a large share of the altruistic individual's genetic material.
American Heritage Science

Other Word Forms of Altruism



Origin of Altruism

  • 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). 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.

    From Wiktionary

  • French altruisme probably from Italian altrui someone else from Latin alter other al-1 in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition


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