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 Harry is their recruit to vampirism, which is an apt metaphor for one of America’s real-life horror stories: addiction, whether that be physical dependence, as on opioids, or metaphysical, as with avarice and aspiration. Michael P. H. Stanley, National Review, 3 Oct. 2021 The common denominator of human experience is avarice. Bathsheba Demuth, The Atlantic, 22 Sep. 2021 In Poland there once lived a countess, a lady of advanced years, who led a very wicked life and was, through her avarice and cruelty, a torment to others, especially her subordinates, bleeding them dry. Matthew Spencer, Harper's Magazine, 17 Aug. 2021 The other culprit for the disaster of Woodstock ’99, according to the documentary, is avarice. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 27 July 2021 Knopf is wary of booksellers, aggrieved by the avarice of certain authors, and invariably obsessed with the quality and curation of the books that his house puts out. Erin Overbey, The New Yorker, 25 July 2021 Disapproval of excessive wealth and unchecked avarice is Hollywood gospel. New York Times, 13 May 2021 Or: Here is a way to become rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Zoë Heller, The New Yorker, 5 July 2021 By obscuring the personal and relational dimension of life and of the material world, money can indeed swamp the world with avarice, materialism, and unconstrained consumption. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 3 July 2021

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

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Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Avarice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avarice. Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for avarice



English Language Learners Definition of avarice

: a strong desire to have or get money : greed


av·​a·​rice | \ ˈa-və-rəs How to pronounce avarice (audio) , ˈav-rəs \

Kids Definition of avarice

: strong desire for riches : greed

More from Merriam-Webster on avarice

Nglish: Translation of avarice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of avarice for Arabic Speakers


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