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Selfish vs. Greedy: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Harlon Moss || Updated on May 24, 2024
Selfish refers to prioritizing one's own needs and desires without regard for others, while greedy involves an intense desire for more of something, such as wealth or power, often to the detriment of others.

Key Differences

Selfish behavior is characterized by putting one's own interests above those of others, often ignoring the needs and feelings of others. A selfish person may refuse to share resources, time, or effort, focusing solely on personal gain or comfort. Greed, on the other hand, is an intense and often insatiable desire to acquire more of something, whether it be money, power, food, or other material goods.
While both selfish and greedy behaviors can harm others, selfishness is generally about self-centeredness and lack of empathy, whereas greed involves aggressive pursuit of more, leading to hoarding or exploitation. A selfish person might hoard their own resources without considering others, while a greedy person actively seeks to take or acquire more, often beyond necessity.
Selfishness can be situational, such as not sharing a meal, whereas greed is a more overarching trait, driving continuous acquisition. Selfish actions can be temporary or context-specific, while greed represents a broader, more persistent attitude.

Comparison Chart


Prioritizing one's own needs and desires over others
Intense desire for more of something, often at the expense of others


Excessive acquisitiveness


Personal gain or comfort
Accumulation of wealth, power, or goods

Impact on Others

Ignoring or disregarding others' needs
Exploiting or taking from others


Lack of consideration for others
Insatiable craving for more


Situational and context-specific
Persistent and overarching trait

Selfish and Greedy Definitions


Prioritizing personal needs over those of others.
She made a selfish decision to go on vacation alone, leaving her family behind.


Having an excessive desire for more than one needs or deserves.
The greedy businessman exploited his workers for greater profits.


Unwilling to share or give.
Her selfish refusal to donate to charity was criticized by her peers.


Driven by a strong desire to acquire.
His greedy pursuit of power corrupted his morals.


Focused solely on personal benefit.
The selfish student refused to help his classmates study.


Hoarding more than necessary.
The greedy child took all the cookies, leaving none for others.


Concerned excessively with oneself and one's own advantage.
He was too selfish to share his food with his friends.


Eager for material gain.
His greedy appetite for wealth led to unethical decisions.


Concerned chiefly or excessively with oneself, and having little regard for others
A selfish child who wouldn't share toys.


Insatiable in appetite or desire.
She was greedy for attention and always sought to be in the spotlight.


Showing or arising from an excessive concern with oneself and a lack of concern for others
A selfish whim.


Having or showing a strong or excessive desire to acquire money or possess things, especially wishing to possess more than what one needs or deserves.


The present quote doesn't illustrate the meaning very well.Holding one's own self-interest as the standard for decision making.


Having or showing a desire to eat or drink in large or excessive amounts.


Having regard for oneself above others’ well-being.


Extremely eager or desirous for an activity or pursuit
Greedy for the opportunity to prove their ability.


(video game characters) Relying on their own actions and capabilities to be effective in the game, rather than on other characters.


Having greed; consumed by selfish desires.


Caring supremely or unduly for one's self; regarding one's own comfort, advantage, etc., in disregard, or at the expense, of those of others.
They judge of things according to their own private appetites and selfish passions.
In that throng of selfish hearts untrue.


Prone to overeat.


Believing or teaching that the chief motives of human action are derived from love of self.
Hobbes and the selfish school of philosophers.


(regular expressions) Tending to match as much text as possible.
This regular expression performs a greedy match.


Concerned chiefly or only with yourself;
Selfish men were...trying to make capital for themselves out of the sacred cause of civil rights


That tries to find the global optimum by finding the local optimum at each stage.


Lacking consideration for others.
His selfish behavior alienated his colleagues.


(archaic) Greedily sought or pursued.


Having a keen appetite for food or drink; ravenous; voracious; very hungry; - followed by of; as, a lion that is greedy of his prey.


Having a keen desire for anything; vehemently desirous; eager to obtain; avaricious; as, greedy of gain.


Immoderately desirous of acquiring e.g. wealth;
They are avaricious and will do anything for money
Casting covetous eyes on his neighbor's fields
A grasping old miser
Grasping commercialism
Greedy for money and power
Grew richer and greedier
Prehensile employers stingy with raises for their employees


(often followed by `for') ardently or excessively desirous;
Avid for adventure
An avid ambition to succeed
Fierce devouring affection
The esurient eyes of an avid curiosity
Greedy for fame


Wanting to eat or drink more than one can reasonably consume;
Don't be greedy with the cookies


What does selfish mean?

Selfish means prioritizing one's own needs and desires without regard for others.

Is selfishness always negative?

Generally, yes, as it involves disregarding others' needs, but context can sometimes make it understandable.

Is greed always negative?

Yes, greed involves excessive acquisitiveness and often harms others.

Can someone be greedy without being selfish?

Greed inherently involves selfishness, but it specifically focuses on excessive acquisition.

Can selfish actions be temporary?

Yes, selfish actions can be situational and context-specific.

What motivates selfish behavior?

Self-interest, personal gain, or comfort motivate selfish behavior.

What does greedy mean?

Greedy means having an intense desire for more of something, such as wealth or power, often to the detriment of others.

Does selfishness harm others?

Selfishness can harm others by ignoring their needs and interests.

Can selfishness be justified?

In some contexts, such as self-preservation, selfishness can be understandable but still may be seen as negative.

Can someone be selfish without being greedy?

Yes, someone can be focused on their own needs without actively seeking to acquire more.

What motivates greedy behavior?

An insatiable craving for more wealth, power, or goods motivates greedy behavior.

Can someone recognize their greedy behavior?

It can be more challenging, as greed often involves deeper desires and justifications, but it is possible.

Can greed be justified?

Greed is typically viewed as negative because it leads to unfairness and harm.

How can selfishness be addressed?

By developing empathy and considering others' needs and feelings.

Is greed a more persistent trait?

Yes, greed is a broader, more persistent attitude driving continuous acquisition.

How can greed be addressed?

By cultivating contentment, fairness, and focusing on non-materialistic values.

Does greed harm others?

Yes, greed often involves taking from or exploiting others to satisfy one's desires.

Is greed about overconsumption?

Yes, greed involves an excessive desire for more than necessary, leading to hoarding or exploitation.

Is selfishness about lack of empathy?

Yes, selfishness often involves a lack of consideration for others' feelings and needs.

Can someone recognize their selfish behavior?

Yes, with self-awareness, someone can recognize and potentially change their selfish behavior.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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