av·​a·​rice | \ ˈa-və-rəs How to pronounce avarice (audio) , ˈav-rəs \

Definition of avarice

: excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain : greediness, cupidity

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Word History of Avarice

A more formal synonym for greed, avarice has a long if uncomplicated history in English. Chaucer in his 14th-century The Parson's Tale compared avarice with covetise, a now obsolete word that means "covetousness" ("Covetise is to covet such things as thou hast not; and avarice is to withhold and keep such things as thou hast, without rightful need"—743), and Shakespeare uses it in Macbeth ("With this there grows / In my most ill-composed affection such / A stanchless avarice that, were I king, / I should cut off the nobles for their lands, / Desire his jewels and this other's house: / And my more-having would be as a sauce / To make me hunger more"—IV.iii.76-82).

Avarice has also appeared in various translations of the Bible, usually in verses that describe the attributes of those who do not follow God, and has historically been listed as one of the seven deadly sins.

Examples of avarice in a Sentence

Adherence to the Baldwin model is usually more a sin of thoughtlessness and convenience than of conscious avarice, though it is always an appropriation of moral power, a stealing of thunder. — Shelby Steele, Harper's, November 2002 … a company of artists, among them the young Thomas Nast, seated at rows of desks in a high-ceilinged studio overlooking the avarice and deviltry walking in and out of New York's City Hall. — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, June 2000 Unlike the rest of us, stuck in our jobs, choking on carbon monoxide, heeling around on overpriced shoes, recovering from a decade of avarice, Chip works and he's tanned and happy. — Peter Wilkinson, Rolling Stone, 11-25 July 1991 Nor was private avarice their besetting sin although they were as subject as most men to the stings of ambition. — Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, 1984 The corporate world is plagued by avarice and a thirst for power. He was driven by avarice.
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Recent Examples on the Web Their work, in and out of power, is to dress up the atavistic avarice and self-serving fatuity of the wealthy people who fund and shape conservative politics as an ideology. David Roth, The New Republic, "American Psycho," 9 June 2020 HBO’s Succession exposes the tragic emotional vacuity lurking beneath corporate avarice run amok. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "So Sad, Can’t Stop Laughing," 4 May 2020 But the basis of today’s financial markets seems to be unchecked avarice devoid of oversight. The New Yorker, "The Mail," 4 May 2020 At times, Saunt’s pessimistic narrative of unchecked and racialized avarice operates in tension with his more hopeful emphasis on anti-expulsion activism, and with his broader insistence that expulsion wasn’t inevitable. Caitlin Fitz, The Atlantic, "Conquerors Armed With Spreadsheets," 8 Apr. 2020 Cato represented the disappearing virtues of the republican citizen-soldier that were giving way to the opportunism and avarice of Caesar and his professional soldiers more loyal to him than the dying republic. Steele Brand, Time, "What Ancient Rome and Greece Can Teach Us About the Modern American Military," 20 Sep. 2019 There are other, less obvious consequences of the unbridled avarice displayed by the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma. Joshua Hunt, The New Republic, "We Didn’t Stand a Chance Against Opioids," 18 Sep. 2019 Greed Filmmaker Erich Von Stroheim’s classic 1924 silent-era tale of passion, avarice and murder. Matt Cooper, Los Angeles Times, "Classic movies, film festivals, etc., in L.A. this week: ‘Selena,’ ‘The Godfather’ and more," 15 Sep. 2019 That spirit carried into adulthood, engendering feuds and lawsuits that became public displays of avarice and fraternal malice. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "David Koch, Billionaire Who Fueled Right-Wing Movement, Dies at 79," 23 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'avarice.' 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 avarice

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for avarice

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin avaritia, from avarus avaricious, from avēre to crave — more at avid

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Time Traveler for avarice

Time Traveler

The first known use of avarice was in the 13th century

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Statistics for avarice

Last Updated

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Avarice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avarice. Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for avarice


How to pronounce avarice (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of avarice

formal + disapproving : a strong desire to have or get money


av·​a·​rice | \ ˈa-və-rəs How to pronounce avarice (audio) , ˈav-rəs \

Kids Definition of avarice

: strong desire for riches : greed

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More from Merriam-Webster on avarice

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for avarice

Spanish Central: Translation of avarice

Nglish: Translation of avarice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of avarice for Arabic Speakers

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