av·​a·​rice ˈa-və-rəs How to pronounce avarice (audio)
: 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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Judas’s betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver was the ultimate display of avarice. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 18 Jan. 2024 Greed always has been there, but its cocktail of avarice liquor and bitters has been poured too strong and now goes down hard and ugly. Nick Canepa, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Jan. 2024 Walsh’s attorneys said in a court filing that he wasn’t motivated by avarice, but desperation. Richard Lardner, Fortune, 13 Nov. 2023 Walsh's attorneys said in a court filing that he wasn't motivated by avarice, but desperation. CBS News, 10 Nov. 2023 With the company flourishing, the brothers earned a reputation for avarice. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Hungry, wolf-life Mammon remains a potent personification of avarice, of the prodigious hoarding of resources. TIME, 28 Oct. 2023 How can the grim reality of anthropogenic climate change, which could kill billions of people and collapse multiple biomes by the end of this century, be spoken of only in terms of politics and economics, but not also in terms of greed, avarice, evil? TIME, 28 Oct. 2023 Much of it is delivered by John Goodman, who brings a touching pathos to the role of the church’s patriarch, Eli Gemstone — a man of humble beginnings whose best intentions toward his kin only seem to multiply their avarice and shamelessness. Elizabeth Nelson, New York Times, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'avarice.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near avarice

Cite this Entry

“Avarice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avarice. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


av·​a·​rice ˈav-(ə-)rəs How to pronounce avarice (audio)
: strong desire for riches : greed

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