• avarice •
Pronunciation: æ-vê-ris • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: The polite, almost poetic word for excessive greed, especially for wealth; obsessive cupidity, rapacity.
Notes: When greed doesn't express enough, this is the word for you. The adjective is avaricious, but avarous remains in the Oxford English Dictionary, marked as obsolete or dialectal.
In Play: Remember, today's word refers to extreme greed: "Fortune-hunters, outlaws, financiers, and other opportunists turned frontier towns into hives of avarice and speculation." Avarice finds a cozy home among corporate business circles: "It is fashionable in the US to attribute the exponential growth of executive salaries to economic growth and ignore the role of avarice."
Word History: This word wended its way into English from Old French avarice "greed, covetousness", which French inherited and modified from Latin avaritia "greed". Avaritia is a derivation of avarus "greedy". This adjective came from avere "crave, long for" from Proto-Italic awe- "to be eager", inherited from PIE heu-eh- "to enjoy, consume". Sanskrit avasa- "refreshment, food", and avisya- "gluttony" come from the same PIE root, as does Welsh ewyllys "will" and Armenian aviwn "lust". The PIE root seems to have missed the Germanic languages or died out on its way to English. (William Hupy, the most prolific Lexiterian suggesting Good Words in the Alpha Agora.)