• 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.)