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 There is no king to protect you, no House of Lords to temper the majority’s greed or avarice. Jay Cost, National Review, "In Defense of the Senate," 21 Mar. 2021 Only the successful mission will garner successful revenue, profit and market growth absent of avarice. Peter Weedfald, Forbes, "Are You A Shepherd Leader?," 11 Mar. 2021 Although Hayes’s lifelong awareness of class struggle never lost its edge, in Hollywood it was transmuted into a deepened sense of human avarice that no political theory could adequately account for. Vivian Gornick, The New York Review of Books, "Sex, Noir & Isolation," 9 Mar. 2021 After all, the Church taught that avarice was one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Inflation, Inflation, Inflation (or Not)," 5 Mar. 2021 In refusing to romanticize the landscape or the piracy that takes place upon it, Frank's book suggests that perhaps what diamonds are forever really means is that so is avarice. Kathleen Rooney, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Flight of the Diamond Smugglers,' by Matthew Gavin Frank," 19 Feb. 2021 Satires of Hollywood, especially those set in L.A., are often either cruel or sour, zeroing in on the industry’s rampant vice and avarice, its plastic sheen. Philippa Snow, The New Republic, "The Very Serious Appeal of Call My Agent," 25 Jan. 2021 The company’s many critics see it as the pinnacle of avarice. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 To be sure, plenty of this acquisitiveness comes from a love of gaming, not from unthinking avarice. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "It's OK to Play One Game Forever," 24 Oct. 2020

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

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Avarice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avarice. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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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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Comments on avarice

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