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greed

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noun

excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

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Origin of greed

First recorded in 1600–10; back formation from greedy
Greed, greediness denote an excessive, extreme desire for something, often more than one's proper share. Greed means avid desire for gain or wealth (unless some other application is indicated) and is definitely uncomplimentary in implication: His greed drove him to exploit his workers. Greediness, when unqualified, suggests a craving for food; it may, however, be applied to all avid desires, and need not be always uncomplimentary: greediness for knowledge, fame, praise.
greedless, adjectivegreedsome, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does greed mean?

Greed is an excessive desire for more, especially for more money and possessions.

The adjective greedy is used to describe people who are filled with greed, as in greedy billionaires, or actions that are based on greed, as in It was a greedy scheme to squeeze more money out of people.  

Greed and greedy are always used negatively to criticize the excessive desire for more.

Greed is often thought to influence people to do bad things in their obsession to acquire more money or more stuff. In the expression “the love of money is the root of all evil,” the love of money is another way of saying greed.

Less commonly, greed can mean the same thing as gluttony—an excessive desire for food.

Example: Wall Street’s unrestrained greed has infected every part of American society, from politics to healthcare to education.

Where does greed come from?

The first records of the word greed come from around the early 1600s. It’s actually a back formation of the adjective greedy, which means that greedy came first and was altered to make the noun greed. The first records of the word greedy come from before 900. It comes from the Old English grædig, which is related to the Gothic grēdags, meaning “hungry.”

Greed makes people insatiable—meaning that they’re hungry to acquire more and more money or things, but they’re never satisfied with what they have.

Greed is one of the so-called seven deadly sins in Christian theology. In this context, it is sometimes known by the more formal names of avarice and covetousness.

In pop culture, greed is associated with the character Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol—so much so that the name Scrooge has become a way of referring to a greedy miser or moneygrubber. A more modern example of a character who personifies greed is Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street, whose catch phrase is “Greed is good.”

The opposite of greed is often considered to be generosity—a willingness to give away one’s money or possessions instead of being obsessed with acquiring more.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to greed?

  • greedy (adjective)
  • greediness (noun)

What are some synonyms for greed?

What are some words that share a root or word element with greed

 

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing greed?

 

How is greed used in real life?

Greed is always used in a critical way.

 

Try using greed!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of greed?

A. avarice
B. covetousness
C. generosity
D. rapacity

British Dictionary definitions for greed

greed
/ (ɡriːd) /

noun

excessive consumption of or desire for food; gluttony
excessive desire, as for wealth or power
greedless, adjective
C17: back formation from greedy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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