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Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2020 6:37 pm
by Dr. Goodword

• ambition •

Pronunciation: æm-bi-shên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Drive, strong desire for achievement, willingness to work hard for success. 2. The object of such drive, as "Her ambition is to be president."

Notes: Most Latinate nouns ending on -ion are borrowed with a verb. This one isn't. It is occasionally used as a verb itself, as 'to ambition a life on the stage'. It does come with an adjective, ambitious, which has an antonym, ambitionless.

In Play: As a noun, today's Good Word may be used like this: "Ludwig's ambition to be prime minister ran afoul of his libido." As a verb, like this: "Ludwig told the press that he only ambitioned to be the world's best lover."

Word History: Ambition was borrowed, as is, from French, which inherited it from Latin ambitio(n) "going about, seeking popularity or power". In Latin it was derived from ambire "to go around, go about", comprising amb- "around" + ire "to go". The present participle of ambire is ambien(t)s "going", source of English ambient. The prefix amb- came from Proto-Indo-European ambhi "around, on both sides", source also of Greek amphitheatron "amphitheater", where spectators sat partway around the stage. German um "around, about" comes from the same source. Latin ire comes from PIE ei- "to go", which emerged in Russian as idti "to go, come". (Right now I've no more ambition than to thank David Myer, a staunch and steady contributor of fascinating Good Words like today's.)

Re: Ambition

Posted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 6:38 am
by David Myer
Two follow-up questions arise.

One is what prompted me to suggest the word in the first place. We heard it used as a verb on the wireless in Australia. "That's what I ambition." And I was appalled. I know language evolves, and I know we know what they mean, and I know that communication is all about people getting the message, but do we have to put up with this? If there really was a need for a verb (and of course there isn't - how much sweeter to have said "That is my ambition") then the ending should change to match conventional language structure. Negotiation - negotiate. Deviation - deviate. Definition - define.
Ambition - Ambite

Are others similarly appalled?

And the other question is about 'ambit' which is presumably closely related. In England as a young man 'ambit' was used as a more modern word for bailiwick. Within one's ambit meant within one's area of influence or control. But in Australia we have 'ambit claims'. Commonly these are made by union negotiators seeking pay rises for their members. We make an ambit claim for 50 and negotiate our way reaching a settlement at say 15 which is what we really wanted in the first place. What's the story in America? How is ambit used there?

Re: Ambition

Posted: Wed Dec 09, 2020 12:37 pm
by Slava
I think of ambit as bailiwick.