• narcissism •
Pronunciation: nahr-sê-si-zêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1. Extreme egotism, selfishness, self-centered admiration of oneself or one's appearance. 2. (Psychology) A personality disorder evolving from a severe lack of self-esteem, even self-hatred, expressed by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and disregard for the well-being of others. 3. Pleasure derived from self-admiration.
Notes: This word's meaning differs from that of conceit and egotism in that narcissism is or borders on a psychological disorder. Egotism and conceit fit comfortably within the range of normal personality features. Someone possessed of narcissism is a narcissist, because they display narcissistic behavior, narcissistically.
In Play: Narcissism is an exaggerated variety of egotism: "The narcissism is evident in all the self-portraits by the artist." It becomes elevated in some locations: "Rhoda Book published a monograph on the narcissism and moral confusion of Hollywood."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from German Narzissismus, coined by psychiatrist Paul Näcke in his book Die sexuellen Perversitäten. The German word is based on Greek Narkissos, the name of the handsome youth in Ovid's Metamorphoses, who fell in love with his own reflection in a spring. He was then turned into the flower narcissus. The Greek flower name, narkissos, was borrowed by Latin as narcissus, whence the English alternate to daffodil. The Greeks probably had in mind a type of iris or lily, not a daffodil. Irises and lilies are associated with narke "numbness" because of the sedative effect of the alkaloids found in them. This Greek word also went into the making of narkotikos "making numb", whence English narcotic. (Rob Towart, long-time stalwart contributor, deserves credit for bringing to our attention today's very topical Good Word.)