Definition of altruism
1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others charitable acts motivated purely by altruism
2 : behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species
altruistplay \-trü-ist\ noun
altruisticplay \ˌal-trü-ˈis-tik\ adjective
altruisticallyplay \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
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Examples of altruism in a Sentence
A few skimpy corporate pensions were paid, but they were offered as much as departure incentives designed to promote business efficiency as expressions of altruism. —W. Andrew Achenbaum, Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2006
Mary may have ample resources and prefer that her share pass to her children who have greater need and are in lower income tax brackets. (The progressive nature of our tax laws often fosters such altruism among family members.) —William M. McGovern, Jr. et al., Wills, Trusts and Estates, 1988
And he still chokes up when he tells the story. Even at that young age, he understood that what his aunt was doing for him was the purest act of altruism. —Gail Sheehy, New York Times Magazine, 20 Apr. 1986
Recent Examples of altruism from the Web
Scientists have known for years that the spatial arrangement of a static population can encourage microbial altruism.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'altruism'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Altruism Has Roots in Latin and French
Altruism refers to a quality possessed by people whose focus is on something other than themselves, and its root reveals the object of those generous tendencies. Altruism derives from the French word autrui, meaning "other people." Autrui in turn developed from the Old French term autre, which means "other" and which itself comes from Latin alter, also meaning "other." That Latin source eventually caused a curious thing to happen. Under the influence of alter, the French autrui gave rise to the altrui- of both the French altruisme and the English altruism. The English term has been in use since at least the mid-1800s.
Origin and Etymology of altruism
French altruisme, from autrui other people, from Old French, oblique case form of autre other, from Latin alter
First Known Use: 1853See Words from the same year
Other Zoology Terms
ALTRUISM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of altruism for English Language Learners
: feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness
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