egoism, egotism
1. Both are 18c words for ‘preoccupation with oneself’ in various ways. There is no etymological difference to affect their meanings, and the intrusive -t- in egotism is unexplained. When Fowler wrote about these words (1926), egotism was the more popular form, and his prediction that egoism would oust it has not been fulfilled. It is useful to maintain a distinction: egotism is the general word for excessive self-centredness, whereas egoism is a more technical word in ethics and metaphysics for theories which treat the self as the basis of morality and sense-perception. In an extended meaning, egotism also means self-seeking conceit, whereas egoism is a more straightforward preoccupation with the self and an excessive use of I. The meanings are however so close that they will not stay apart in ordinary usage, nor will those of the corresponding personal designations egoist and egotist (although strictly an egoist is someone who subscribes to a type of morality based on the importance of the self and an egotist is a self-seeker) and of the adjectival forms egoistic / egoistical and egotistic / egotistical.
2. Some examples follow: (egoism and its derivatives)

• I have never gone out of my way for man, woman, or child. I am the complete egoist —Vita Sackville-West, 1931

• How much of us will be recognisable in the pages of the history books of 2066? This egoist's niggle spiralled up into my mind —New Statesman, 1966

• He can retain his insights into another person, and use them in choices of means, without abandoning his long-term egoistic ends for the altruistic goals to which he briefly felt himself drawn —A. C. Graham, 1985

• He [sc. C. S. Lewis] writes about it in unforgettably dramatic terms and with the sublime egoism (to use the word purely, with no pejorative sense) of a man alone with God —A. N. Wilson, 1990

• Hutcheson thought of himself as defending the reality of moral distinctions, and the genuineness of a morally good benevolence which was not egoistically based —T. L. S. Sprigg, 1990

• (egotism and its derivatives) Nothing so confirms an egotism as thinking well of oneself —Aldous Huxley, 1939

• He was continually talking about himself and his relation to the world about him, a quality which created the unfortunate impression that he was simply a blatant egotist —H. Miller, 1957

• To justify or to condemn them in public is a squalid piece of egotism when it will hurt the living —C. Day Lewis, 1960

• I had always thought him to be egotistical and attention-seeking —D. M. Thomas, 1990

• It amazed her that she'd ever believed herself in love with him, that she'd deluded herself into seeing his arrogance and his egotism as positive qualities —S. Marton, 1993.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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