cu·​pid·​i·​ty | \ kyu̇-ˈpi-də-tē How to pronounce cupidity (audio) \
plural cupidities

Definition of cupidity

1 : inordinate desire for wealth : avarice, greed the cupidity of the bankers
2 : strong desire : lust

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From its verb "cupere" ("to desire") Latin derived three nouns which have passed with minimal modification into English. Cupiditas meant "yearning and "desire"; English borrowed this as "cupidity," which originally in the 15th century was synonymous with "lust." (The "greed" meaning of "cupidity" developed very soon after this other now-archaic meaning.) Latin cupido started out as a near synonym of "cupiditas," but it came to stand for the personification of specifically carnal desire, the counterpart of Greek eros; this is the source of our familiar (and rather domesticated) Cupid. A strengthened form of "cupere" - concupiscere, meaning "to desire ardently - yielded the noun "concupiscentia" in the Late Latin of the Christian church. "Concupiscentia" came specially to denote sexual desire, a meaning reflected in the English version concupiscence, meaning "sexual desire."

Examples of cupidity in a Sentence

The evidence revealed the cupidity of the company's directors. reports of great treasure in the Indies inflamed the cupidity of Columbus's crew
Recent Examples on the Web In Williams’s telling, the capitalists turned against slavery out of cupidity rather than humanity. James Oakes, The New York Review of Books, 23 Mar. 2021 What keeps us from tuning out is the infectious energy of an ensemble that delights in its characters’ displays of cupidity and stupidity, and the storybook ingenuity of the physical production. Ben Brantley, New York Times, 7 Mar. 2018 And if anyone shall be led by his cupidity or arrogance to break this truce, by the authority of God and with the sanction of this Council he shall be anathematized. James Carroll, The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2017 The cupidity of the government and white real estate developers leaves working-class locals, women especially, with few options. Jennifer Senior, New York Times, 29 June 2016 Cupidity and corruption perform, year after year, their reverse magic. Dwight Garner, New York Times, 10 Mar. 2016

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cupidity

Middle English cupidite, from Anglo-French cupidité, from Latin cupiditat-, cupiditas — more at covet

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The first known use of cupidity was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Cupidity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for cupidity



English Language Learners Definition of cupidity

formal : a strong desire for money or possessions


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