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 Tony Iommi appears on an Ozzy solo album — are satisfying in their ambition and urgency. Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, 9 Sep. 2022 When Baribeau arrived at Catholic Medical Center in 1992, the recently married 36-year-old surgeon was searching for a busy, growing practice to absorb his restless ambition., 7 Sep. 2022 As part of the program, each senior was asked to stand and announce their ambition. Nancy Anderson, Good Housekeeping, 5 Sep. 2022 As Beijing builds its power and elevates its ambition, Asia has become Washington’s principal focus in its defense of American global influence and the system of relationships, norms, and ideals that supports it. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 29 Aug. 2022 Ryan’s dad, Damion Hickman, is impressed with his fearlessness in front of the camera and his ambition. Sarah Sekula, USA TODAY, 24 Aug. 2022 Its share price ended Monday down more than 45% since Mr. Gelsinger detailed his chip-making ambition last year, compared with an 8% retreat in the PHLX Semiconductor Index. Asa Fitch, WSJ, 23 Aug. 2022 Spiegel and his team deserve a pinch of praise for their ambition. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 19 Aug. 2022 Your ambition regarding personal and professional matters may be supercharged today. Chicago Tribune, 14 Aug. 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

14 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ambition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 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

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!