The word selfish has one meaning—being self-centered. Many children’s texts emphasize selfishness as a negative trait. However, it is important to recognize all emotions, even the negative ones. Students may encounter texts where characters are and the lessons within these texts often include encouraging children to develop compassion, gratitude, and sharing skills.
Dr. Seuss is among many popular authors whose stories conclude with such lessons. His story How the Grinch Stole Christmas portrays a grumpy, selfish character, the Grinch, who tries to steal Christmas gifts from others in order to ruin Christmas. The story ends as the Grinch learns his lesson and is no longer greedy and selfish.
The word selfish is the word self, descendant of the Common Germanic word, with the suffix –ish, meaning “of or belonging to a person or thing.” The first use of the word selfish was by Presbyterians in the year 1641. The Spanish word for selfish is egoísta. Egoísta is not a Spanish cognate for selfish, but it is a cognate of the word egotistic, a synonym.
The word selfish includes the root word self and the suffix -ish. In this context, is not being used as a suffix, as it often is (e.g., herself, himself, oneself, etc.). Self as a suffix forms singular personal pronouns. Self as a root word refers to the characteristics of a person and what makes them unique.
Some idioms relating to being selfish are connected to greed. For example, the idiom “cash in on” means to exploit a situation and this carries the negative connotation that the person “cashing in on” the situation is being greedy or selfish. Other idioms are more closely linked to the concept of selfishness. Having “an ax to grind” refers to having a selfish reason for doing or saying something.