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


ambitioned; ambitioning; ambitions

Definition of ambition (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to have as one's ambition : desire

Other Words from ambition


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

Synonyms for ambition

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

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 Charmed by her wit and ambition, Edward hires Vivian to appear as his girlfriend at his business events for the week. Time, 23 Sep. 2022 Perhaps the biggest factor in ambition becoming reality is health. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2022 Marquette 10 is one of a thousand reasons why there’s tension, personal jealousy, personal ambition, jurisdictional turf fights. Chicago Tribune, 22 Sep. 2022 The London procession ended at Wellington Arch, whose namesake — the Duke of Wellington — is celebrated for stopping Napoleon’s ambition at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, 19 Sep. 2022 The finished product remains their greatest accomplishment, fully realizing the potential of Death Cab’s earnest accessibility while widening the scope and ambition. Jeff Terich, SPIN, 16 Sep. 2022 Those with smarts, talent, and ambition tend to get money (certainly in free and open societies). Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 15 Sep. 2022 In a sport that hasn’t seen a player steal 50 bases in five seasons, such ambition represents a potentially notable change to the way the game is played. Alex Speier,, 15 Sep. 2022 On Wednesday evening, Barstool executives and talent were set to make that pitch to advertisers at New York’s Webster Hall, outlining a content roadmap that is broad in ambition. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Sep. 2022 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, 23 May 2017 See More

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.

First Known Use of ambition


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


1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ambition


Middle English ambicioun, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French ambicion, borrowed from Latin ambitiōn-, ambitiō "act of soliciting for votes, running for public office, striving after popularity, desire for advancement," from ambīre "to encircle, visit in rotation, solicit (political support), seek to obtain" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at ambient entry 1


derivative of ambition entry 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near ambition




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ambition

Last Updated

26 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ambition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ambition


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on ambition

Nglish: Translation of ambition for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ambition for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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