am·bi·tion | \am-ˈbi-shən \

Definition of ambition 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power With her talent and fierce ambition, she became a very successful actress.

b : desire to achieve a particular end

2 : the object of ambition Her ambition is to start her own business.

3 US : a desire for activity or exertion felt sick and had no ambition


ambitioned; ambitioning; ambitions

Definition of ambition (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to have as one's ambition : desire

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Other Words from ambition


ambitionless \-ləs \ adjective

Synonyms for ambition

Synonyms: Noun

ambitiousness, aspiration, go-getting

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Choose the Right Synonym for ambition


ambition, aspiration, pretension mean strong desire for advancement. ambition applies to the desire for personal advancement or preferment and may suggest equally a praiseworthy or an inordinate desire. driven by ambition aspiration implies a striving after something higher than oneself. an aspiration to become president someday pretension suggests ardent desire for recognition of accomplishment often without actual possession of the necessary ability and therefore may imply presumption. has literary pretensions

Ambition Has Roots in Roman Politics

When candidates for public office in ancient Rome wanted to be elected, they had to do just what modern candidates must do. They had to spend most of their time going around the city urging the citizens to vote for them. The Latin word for this effort was ambitio, which came from ambire, a verb meaning “to go around.” Since this activity was caused by a desire for honor or power, the word eventually came to mean “the desire for honor or power.” This word came into French and English as ambition in the late Middle Ages. Later its meaning broadened to include “an admirable desire for advancement or improvement” and still later “the object of this desire.”

Examples of ambition in a Sentence


My first ambition as a child was to be in the circus. He lacked ambition and couldn't compete with the others.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Ol’ Big Ears’ last time out in Kiev, the ambition in this current Liverpool side is through the roof and the owners are spending big in order to make their dreams a reality., "Why New Liverpool Signing Naby Keita Has the Potential to Become One of the World's Best Midfielders," 12 July 2018 There are multiple reasons for the lackluster showing, including the question of whether Xiaomi should be judged on its principal smartphone business or its ambitions for expanding online services. Charlie Cambell/beijing, Time, "Lei Jun Wants to Be China’s Answer to Steve Jobs. But Trump’s Trade War Is Getting In His Way," 12 July 2018 The biggest problem throughout the two seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale has been that the show can’t quite find a way to unite its world-building ambitions with the constrained environment of Atwood’s book. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "A Maddening Season Finale for The Handmaid’s Tale," 11 July 2018 My eighth grade yearbook ambition was to be a chef. Kara Baskin,, "Getting Salty with Nick Calias, executive chef and food and beverage director at Brasserie Jo and the Colonnade Hotel," 9 July 2018 But his rumpled, eccentric exterior covers a core of steely ambition. Washington Post, "Regret, relief at departure of Boris Johnson as top UK envoy," 10 July 2018 Simon Mignolet is not a GK who’s quality is matching Liverpool’s level of ambition, but, that being said, his personality and character is everything the club is about., "Liverpool Goalkeeper Set for Talks With Manager Jurgen Klopp to Discuss Anfield Future," 30 June 2018 And the president’s agenda, as Mr. Pompeo communicates it, is one of extraordinary ambition: to rewrite the rules of world order in America’s favor while working out stable relationships with geopolitical rivals. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Pompeo on What Trump Wants," 25 June 2018 Social liberalisation is part of the crown prince’s ambition to wean the economy away from oil. The Economist, "How to ensure Muhammad bin Salman’s reforms succeed," 23 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But the Kushners’ empire, like Trump’s, was underwritten by years of dealing in much more modestly ambitioned properties. Alec Macgillis/propublica, New York Times, "Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire," 23 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ambition.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ambition


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1664, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ambition


Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin ambition-, ambitio, literally, act of soliciting for votes, from ambire to go around, solicit


see ambition entry 1

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Phrases Related to ambition

life's ambition

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Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ambition

The first known use of ambition was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for ambition



English Language Learners Definition of ambition

: a particular goal or aim : something that a person hopes to do or achieve

: a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous

: a desire to do things and be active


am·bi·tion | \am-ˈbi-shən \

Kids Definition of ambition

1 : a desire for success, honor, or power

2 : something a person hopes to do or achieve My ambition is to become a jet pilot.

3 : the drive to do things and be active I'm tired and have no ambition.

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Comments on ambition

What made you want to look up ambition? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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