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PIE root

From Middle English ambitious, from Old French *ambitieus, from Latin ambitiosus, from ambitio; see ambition. Compare with French ambitieux.



ambitious ‎(comparative ambitiouser or more ambitious, superlative ambitiousest or most ambitious)

  1. Possessing, or controlled by ambition; greatly or inordinately desirous of power, honor, office, superiority, or distinction.
    • 1891, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Man with the Twisted Lip,"
      As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took a house in the country, and eventually married, without anyone having a suspicion as to my real occupation.
  2. Strongly desirous—followed by "of" or the infinitive; as, ambitious to be or to do something.
  3. Springing from, characterized by, or indicating, ambition; showy; aspiring.
    an ambitious style
  4. Hard to achieve.
    • 2013 June 1, “Ideas coming down the track”, The Economist, volume 407, number 8838, page 13 (Technology Quarterly):
      A “moving platform” scheme [] is more technologically ambitious than maglev trains even though it relies on conventional rails. Local trains would use side-by-side rails to roll alongside intercity trains and allow passengers to switch trains by stepping through docking bays. This set-up solves several problems  [] . Stopping high-speed trains wastes energy and time, so why not simply slow them down enough for a moving platform to pull alongside?

Usage notes[edit]

  • Said of people, projects, plans, goals, etc.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


  • ambitious” in An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828.
  • ambitious in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • ambitious” in Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.
  • ambitious” in Microsoft's Encarta World English Dictionary, North American Edition (2007)
  • "ambitious" in the Wordsmyth Dictionary-Thesaurus (Wordsmyth, 2002)
  • "ambitious" in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • ambitious” in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2007)