ambition

noun
am·​bi·​tion | \ am-ˈbi-shən How to pronounce ambition (audio) \

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

ambition

verb
ambitioned; ambitioning; ambitions

Definition of ambition (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to have as one's ambition : desire

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from ambition

Noun

ambitionless \ am-​ˈbi-​shən-​ləs How to pronounce ambitionless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for ambition

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for ambition

Noun

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

Noun 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 Competing ambitions eventually broke the team apart, although the group reunited intermittently. Washington Post, "Terry Jones, charter member of Monty Python comedy team, dies at 77," 22 Jan. 2020 Competing ambitions eventually broke the team apart, although the group reunited intermittently. Adam Bernstein, BostonGlobe.com, "Terry Jones, 77; writer, comedian, director, purveyor of Python absurdity," 22 Jan. 2020 During our conversation, Liu repeatedly spoke of company strategy in terms of deeper ambitions for the country as a whole, framing economic advancement as a civic virtue. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "China’s Communist Government Has a Strong Hold on Chinese Corporations," 22 Jan. 2020 Disney is arguably the only other company with streaming ambitions as global as Netflix’s. Adam Epstein, Quartz, "Netflix has hit a wall in the US, but its global outlook is much rosier," 21 Jan. 2020 Opera has made a deep play for African markets over the past year amid ambitions to build a super-app after originally starting out a simple mobile phone internet browser on Android phones. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "A Chinese super app is facing claims of predatory consumer lending in Nigeria, Kenya and India," 21 Jan. 2020 Houellebecq harbors Balzacian ambitions as well as Lovecraftian rhapsodies. Siddhartha Deb, The New Republic, "Michel Houellebecq’s Fragile World," 21 Jan. 2020 The other potential break on the legislature’s progressive ambitions is the reluctance of Senate Democrats, who only control the upper chamber 21–19, to push the envelope too far. John Mccormack, National Review, "How Far Left Will Democrats Push Virginia?," 21 Jan. 2020 The Libyan conflict has become a test case for German and European ambitions to uphold a multilateral world order. New York Times, "International Powers Call for Cease-Fire in Libya’s Long Civil War," 19 Jan. 2020 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.

See More

First Known Use of ambition

Noun

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

Verb

1664, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ambition

Noun and Verb

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ambition

Time Traveler for ambition

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for ambition

Last Updated

25 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ambition.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ambition. Accessed 26 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ambition

ambition

noun
How to pronounce ambition (audio)

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
US : a desire to do things and be active

ambition

noun
am·​bi·​tion | \ am-ˈbi-shən How to pronounce ambition (audio) \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to express in a more acceptable way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!