AskDefine | Define avarice

Dictionary Definition



1 reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins) [syn: greed, covetousness, rapacity, avaritia]
2 extreme greed for material wealth [syn: avariciousness, covetousness, cupidity]

User Contributed Dictionary



From , from avaritia, from avarus.


  • a UK /'ævəɹɪs/
  • a US /'ævəɻəs/


  1. Excessive or inordinate desire of gain; greediness after wealth; covetousness; cupidity.
  2. Inordinate desire for some supposed good.


  • 1606 - Shakespeare, Macbeth iv 3
    With this there grows,
    In my most ill-compos'd affection, such
    A stanchless avarice, that, were I king,
    I should cut off the nobles for their lands.
  • 1726 - Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels Part II, ch. vi
    Whether they were always so free from avarice, partialities, or want, that a bribe, or some other sinister view, could have no place among them?
  • 1776 - Thomas Paine, Common Sense
    Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.
  • 2006 - Square-Enix, Kingdom Hearts II Episode 2 of Port Royal ("Pirates of the Caribbean world")
    The Darkness of men's hearts, drawn to these cursed medallions; and this Heartless, a veritable maelstrom of avarice. I wonder, are they worthy to serve Organization XIII?


An excessive or inordinate desire of gain
  • Cezh: chamtivost
  • Finnish: ahneus, rahanhimo
  • French: avarice
  • German: Gier
  • Ido: avareso
  • Italian: avarizia
  • Japanese: 強欲
  • Korean: 탐욕 (tamyok)
  • Polish: chciwość
  • Portuguese: avarícia, avareza
  • Russian: алчность, жадность, скупость
An inordinate desire for some supposed good
  • Polish: chciwość

Extensive Definition

Greed is the selfish desire for or pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others. It is generally considered a vice, and is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.


Greed denotes desire to acquire wealth or possessions beyond the needs of the individual, especially when this accumulation of possession denies others legitimate needs or access to those or other resources. For example, amassing a large collection of seashells would not be considered greed, unless in doing so, the needs of others were jeopardized. Essential to the concept of greed is the awareness that the needs of others are denied, thus rivalrous goods exemplify greed while non-rivalrous goods may not. Greed also often involves using wealth to gain power over others, sometimes by denying wealth or power.
Some desire to increase one's wealth is nearly universal and acceptable in any culture, but this simple want is not considered greed. Greed is the extreme form of this desire, especially where one desires things simply for the sake of owning them (such as the desire to have great amounts of money not to purchase objects, but possession or the money is an end in itself). Greed typically entails acquiring material possessions at the expense of other person's welfare (for example, a father buying himself a new car rather than fix the roof of his family's home) or otherwise reflect priorities.
Coveting another person's goods is usually called envy, a word commonly confused with jealousy. The two words denote opposite forms of greed. We may envy and wish to have the possessions or qualities of another, but we jealously guard the possessions or qualities we believe we have and refuse to share these with others.
Greed for food or drink, combined with excessive indulgence in them, is called gluttony. Excessive greed for and indulgence in sex is called lust, although this term no longer carries as negative connotations as it once did.
A woodcut by Ugo da Carpi, is entitled "Hercules Chasing Avarice from the Temple of the Muses." Thomas Aquinas metaphorically described the sin of Avarice as "Mammon being carried up from Hell by a wolf, coming to inflame the human heart with Greed".
Proponents of laissez-faire capitalism sometimes argue that greed should not be considered a negative trait and should instead be embraced, as they claim that greed is a profoundly benevolent force in human affairs, as well as a necessary foundation for the capitalist system. Critics have argued this definition confuses greed with self-interest, which can be benign.

Greed versus happiness

Buddhists believe greed is based on incorrectly connecting material wealth with happiness. This is caused by a view that exaggerates the positive aspects of an object; that is, acquiring material objects has less impact than we imagine on our feelings of happiness. This view has been correlated by studies in the field of happiness economics, which confirm that beyond the provision of a basic level of material comfort, more wealth does not create greater happiness.

Greed and idolatry

Greed is a form of idolatry, according to the Bible (Colossians 3:5). While some have had difficulty understanding this connection, the most common explanation is that the greedy person values money or possessions more than God. This may also be connected with worship of the golden calf. Another understanding is that greed serves to bring as many things that the greedy person considers valuables to that person, making him the center of his efforts, the one he aims to please, converting him into his own god, and creating pride with great concentration on the ego.


See also

avarice in Catalan: Avarícia
avarice in Czech: Lakota
avarice in Danish: Griskhed
avarice in German: Habgier
avarice in Spanish: Codicia
avarice in French: Avarice
avarice in Hebrew: תאוות בצע
avarice in Italian: Avarizia
avarice in Latin: Avaritia
avarice in Lithuanian: Gobšumas
avarice in Malay (macrolanguage): Ketamakan
avarice in Dutch: Hebzucht
avarice in Norwegian: Griskhet
avarice in Japanese: 貪
avarice in Portuguese: Ganância
avarice in Russian: Алчность
avarice in Sicilian: Avarizzia
avarice in Simple English: Greed (emotion)
avarice in Slovak: Lakomstvo
avarice in Swedish: Girighet
avarice in Ukrainian: Ненажерливість
avarice in Chinese: 貪婪

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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