hello-smlChristine Lovatt
How much difference does one little letter make in a word?

Take the T in egotism for example. You might think that there’s little difference between egoism and egotism, and they do have their similarities. But there is a major difference.

Egoism is an excessive concern for yourself. Egotism is an inflated sense of your own importance.

What separates them is that egoism is just plain selfishness whereas egotism is a view of yourself that is out of touch with reality.

It comes from the Latin word ego meaning I, or self. We all have an ego, it’s the way we see ourselves. It’s like a fingerprint – no two are the same. Some egos need restraining (the loud, boastful types), some need a boost (the shy, wallflower types). Going on an ego trip is doing something that enhances your self-esteem.

Narcissism is excessive vanity, and is named after the beautiful youth in Greek mythology called Narkissos, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and was turned into the narcissus flower.

Unfortunately it seems that narcissism is becoming more prevalent in western society, possibly because of the way children are given excessive admiration by their parents without being balanced with realistic feedback.

Solipsism is a word you don’t see very often in our crosswords, but next time you’re tackling a Goliathon or Demon, remember it’s another word for selfishness, or the view that oneself is the only thing that definitely exists. It comes from the Latin solus ‘alone’ and ipse ‘self’.

Megalomania is a delusion about one’s own power or importance. The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. According to Bertrand Russell, many lunatics and most of the great men of history were megalomaniacs. The word megalomania is derived from the Greek megalo ‘large’ and mania ‘madness’.

Leaders who may have suffered from megalomania include Adolf Hitler, Napoleon, Benito Mussolini, Alexander The Great, Josef Stalin, Mao Ze Dong, Idi Amin, Franco, Juan Peron, Kim Jong-il, Saddam Hussein, Caligula and Genghis Khan.

Happy Puzzling!