cu·​pid·​i·​ty kyu̇-ˈpi-də-tē How to pronounce cupidity (audio)
plural cupidities
: inordinate desire for wealth : avarice, greed
the cupidity of the bankers
: 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 Pilgrimage, though couched in spiritual aims, often bordered on sheer cupidity. Aatish Taseer, New York Times, 9 Nov. 2023 To cupidity, and beyond! Kyle Smith, WSJ, 16 June 2022 Céline often accused Rosembly of having stolen the manuscripts from his apartment in the chaos of the war’s end; certainly, Rosembly was imprisoned for looting various collaborators’ apartments in Montmartre, where Céline used to live, though whether out of revenge or cupidity is also unclear. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 15 June 2022 The meaning of cupidity: a strong desire for wealth. Dallas News, 1 June 2022 Call the content misdemeanor populism, representing in each instance the recourse of someone motivated by need or only petty cupidity. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 4 Apr. 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cupidity.' 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 cupidite, from Anglo-French cupidité, from Latin cupiditat-, cupiditas — more at covet

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near cupidity

Cite this Entry

“Cupidity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


cu·​pid·​i·​ty kyu̇-ˈpid-ət-ē How to pronounce cupidity (audio)
: excessive desire for wealth : greed
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