av·​a·​rice | \ˈa-və-rəs, 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

Milk’s significance as a symbol of gay liberation has eclipsed the reality of the man—a political latecomer and rhetorical savant, whose compassion for the dispossessed vied with an avarice for publicity that sometimes drew him toward populism. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 24 June 2018 Here's a look at some of the first wives whose avarice and hunger for power came to define them and by extension their husbands in power. Fox News, "Sara Netanyahu preceded by avarice of other first wives," 22 June 2018 Here’s a look at some of the first wives whose avarice and hunger for power came to define them and by extension their husbands in power. Washington Post, "Sara Netanyahu preceded by avarice of other first wives," 21 June 2018 This holds even when we’re confronted with its more ruthless side, marked by a tendency to reward unethical behavior like exploitation or avarice. John Benjamin, The New Republic, "Business Class," 14 May 2018 The gala heist may have been an adventure in avarice, but the framing capped it with style. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Sweet Revenge of Ocean’s 8," 12 June 2018 The ritual burning of Judas, a custom also observed in parts of Latin America, is a symbolic punishment of treason and avarice. Fox News, "Burning effigy of Judas an Easter tradition in Greek town," 8 Apr. 2018 Against them are aligned money and time, political avarice and public apathy, not to mention the eternal indignities of gravity and rust. Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, "New York City Would Really Rather Not Talk About Its Slavery-Loving Past," 15 Apr. 2015 But this doesn’t result from avarice, incompetence, or our peculiar insurance system. Robert Graboyes, National Review, "Seven Suggestions for the Amazon-Berkshire-JP Morgan Health Project," 13 Feb. 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


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Time Traveler for avarice

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

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English Language Learners Definition of avarice

: a strong desire to have or get money


av·​a·​rice | \ˈa-və-rəs, 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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something that serves to warn or remind

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