Definition of altruism in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈaltro͞oˌizəm/


1The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others: some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism
More example sentences
  • Most health professionals are motivated by altruism and concern for patients' best interests.
  • Certainly no one should imagine media corporations are suddenly guided by selfless altruism.
  • It brought out the very best in people: altruism, tolerance, noble-mindedness, and openness to others.
1.1 Zoology Behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.
Example sentences
  • Yet systems of reciprocal altruism do emerge in various social species, even among us humans.
  • The book ends with an incisive analysis of animal altruism.
  • Are there any other animal examples of this type of social structure where altruism seems to play a part?



Pronunciation: /ˈalˌtro͞oəst/
Example sentences
  • Doctors can no longer be regarded as white-coated altruists who are moved by the will to heal; they have become shrewd and aggressive shareholders and investors.
  • Of course, it's not exactly hard to find billionaires who think of themselves as altruists regardless of the obscene amounts of wealth they accumulate.
  • This altruist was only persuaded to come forward when he realised he might use the money to help others, and is now considering setting up a charitable foundation.


Mid 19th century: from French altruisme, from Italian altrui 'somebody else', from Latin alteri huic 'to this other'.

  • alter from Late Middle English:

    If you alter something you change it to something else. The word comes via French from Latin alter ‘other’, also found in alternative (mid 16th century). It also lies behind altruism (mid 19th century) which is from Italian altrui ‘somebody else’, from Latin alteri huic ‘to this other’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: al·tru·ism

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