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

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Other Words from ambition


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

Synonyms for ambition

Synonyms: Noun

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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 The study that Rickne and her colleagues published is not the first to highlight the personal penalty that women often face for professional ambition and success. Josie Cox, Quartz, "Women still sacrifice personal happiness for professional brilliance," 11 Nov. 2019 The Tories’ ambition to do a trade deal with America offers Labour just such an opportunity. The Economist, "The Tories want to be the party of the NHS," 10 Nov. 2019 In 2017, China's space program released a space-transportation roadmap, outlining ambitions to make its launch vehicles fully reusable by 2035. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: Aloha to Hawaii launch site, China tests grid fins," 8 Nov. 2019 The story goes inside the greed, hypocrisy, and ambition running rampant through a local city council meeting for the small town of Big Cherry. Nick Romano,, "Armie Hammer returning to Broadway for Tracy Letts production The Minutes," 7 Nov. 2019 Governments of the two biggest global economies have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods in the fight over China's trade surplus and technology ambitions. CBS News, "China says tariffs will come down if trade deal reached with U.S.," 7 Nov. 2019 Inter grabbed a last-gasp victory at Bologna on Saturday night, as Romelu Lukaku scored a late penalty to maintain his side's title ambitions., "Bologna 1-2 Inter: Report, Ratings & Reaction as I Nerazzurri Snatch Late Victory," 2 Nov. 2019 Now approaching its fifth incarnation due to take place in the Netherlands in May 2020, few could argue that the prince’s ambition has been achieved. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "Prince Harry Meets Competitors Who Will Represent Team UK in the 2020 Invictus Games," 29 Oct. 2019 Constraining those ambitions is ESA's science budget, which all 22 member countries must contribute to in line with their gross domestic product. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Fleets of flying telescopes and returning samples from Venus among Europe's space hopes," 24 Oct. 2019 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

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

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Time Traveler for ambition

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for ambition

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ambition.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 November 2019.

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More Definitions for ambition


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


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.

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