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

Our children will inherit our obfuscations, produced out of cowardice or avarice or for political gain. Bathsheba Demuth, BostonGlobe.com, "Chernobyl reminds us of the tragic cost of lies," 28 June 2019 Driven by arrogance, ignorance, or avarice, bad judgment abounds and blame must fall on all Everest participants—the climbers, the guiding companies, and the Nepalese government. Mark Jenkins, Outside Online, "How to Fix Everest," 20 June 2019 Jews were labeled materialistic and corrupt centuries before the Catholic Church began to worry about usury, or even about the sin of avarice. Sara Lipton, The New York Review of Books, "A Terribly Durable Myth," 17 June 2019 The story was told on Twitter in real time, analyzed at length by bloggers and journalists as a symbol of class stratification and American avarice, and then pulled apart by competing Netflix and Hulu documentaries this January. Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox, "Why are so many music festivals total disasters?," 11 June 2019 Hackers with no apparent motive other than curiosity and avarice indiscriminately scan the web for vulnerable servers and networks, and all too often find them. Alan Blinder And Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, "Hard Choice for Cities Under Cyberattack: Whether to Pay Ransom," 29 Mar. 2018 The history of the Diamond-Treasure reflects the history of the Romanovs during the first two centuries, with their exceeding lavishness in some cases, and their extreme avarice [in] others. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Inside the Enduring Mystery of What Happened to Russia's Imperial Jewelry," 1 Nov. 2018 But the pouting silver pitcher that symbolizes the race has never been a vessel for commercial avarice. Luke O'brien, Town & Country, "Hot Pursuit," 1 Sep. 2013 While the Catholic Church labeled envy, pride and avarice cardinal sins, for Mandeville these vices had public benefits. Stephen Miller, WSJ, "Economic Liberty Turns Vice Into Virtue," 14 Nov. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near avarice


avaram bark






Statistics for avarice

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for avarice

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

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More Definitions for avarice



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

Comments on avarice

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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