self-in·​ter·​est | \ ˌself-ˈin-t(ə-)rəst How to pronounce self-interest (audio) ; -ˈin-tə-ˌrest, -ˌtrest; -ˈin-tərst\

Definition of self-interest

1 : a concern for one's own advantage and well-being acted out of self-interest and fear
2 : one's own interest or advantage self-interest requires that we be generous in foreign aid

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from self-interest

self-interested \ ˌself-​ˈin-​t(ə-​)rə-​stəd How to pronounce self-interested (audio) ; -​ˈin-​tə-​ˌre-​ , -​ˈin-​ˌtre-​ ; -​ˈin-​tər-​ \ adjective
self-interestedly adverb
self-interestedness noun

First Known Use of self-interest

1595, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about self-interest

Statistics for self-interest

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for self-interest

The first known use of self-interest was in 1595

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for self-interest



English Language Learners Definition of self-interest

disapproving : concern only for getting what you want or need and not about what happens to other people
: your own interest or advantage

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on self-interest

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with self-interest

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for self-interest

Spanish Central: Translation of self-interest

Nglish: Translation of self-interest for Spanish Speakers

Comments on self-interest

What made you want to look up self-interest? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!