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


  • (US) IPA(key): /æmˈbɪʃ.əs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪʃəs


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

  1. (of a person or their character) Having or showing ambition; wanting a lot of power, honor, respect, superiority, or other distinction.
    an ambitious person
    someone's ambitious nature
    • 1829, Edgar Allan Poe, “Tamerlane”, in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems:
      I was ambitious—have you known
      The passion, father? You have not:
      A cottager, I mark’d a throne
      Of half the world as all my own,
      And murmur’d at such lowly lot— […]
    • 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. (followed by "of" or the infinitive) Very desirous
  3. Resulting from, characterized by, or indicating, ambition
    Synonyms: showy, aspiring
    an ambitious project
    an ambitious style
    an ambitious attempt to take power
    an ambitious plan
    an ambitious goal
  4. Hard to achieve.
    • 2013 June 1, “Ideas coming down the track”, in 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?


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