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Greed vs. Ambition: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 31, 2024
Greed is an excessive desire for more than one needs or deserves, often at others' expense; ambition is a strong drive for success or achievement within ethical bounds.

Key Differences

Greed is characterized by an insatiable desire for more, regardless of necessity or the consequences to others. In contrast, ambition drives individuals to achieve goals through hard work and perseverance, often benefiting both themselves and others.
Greed often leads to unethical or harmful behavior to acquire more wealth, power, or status. Conversely, ambition motivates people to improve themselves and their circumstances through ethical means, respecting others' rights and needs.
Greed is associated with selfishness and disregard for societal norms and the welfare of others, while ambition encourages personal growth and contribution to society, often inspiring others.
The pursuit driven by greed can result in negative outcomes, such as exploitation or corruption. On the other hand, ambition can lead to positive outcomes like innovation, leadership, and societal progress.
Greed often alienates individuals from their community, as it focuses on personal gain at the expense of others. In contrast, ambition can foster collaboration and respect, as it often involves working with others towards a common goal.

Comparison Chart


Acquiring more than needed, often selfishly
Achieving goals, often with a broader vision

Ethical Consideration

Often ignores ethics for personal gain
Typically adheres to ethical standards

Impact on Others

Negative, can harm or exploit others
Positive, can inspire or benefit others

Personal Development

Focuses on accumulation, not growth
Encourages self-improvement and skills

Societal Contribution

Little to none, often detrimental
Positive, often leads to innovation or change

Greed and Ambition Definitions


It reflects an insatiable appetite for acquiring more.
Her greed for power made her betray her closest allies.


Ambition drives goal-setting and personal growth.
His ambition inspired him to pursue advanced education despite challenges.


Greed often involves hoarding wealth or possessions.
The billionaire's greed was evident in his massive, unused collection of luxury cars.


Ambition can lead to innovation and societal progress.
Their ambition led to the development of groundbreaking sustainable technologies.


Greed disregards the needs or well-being of others.
His greed drove him to exploit his workers to maximize profits.


It involves aspiring to reach one's full potential.
Her ambition to be an Olympic athlete fueled years of rigorous training.


An excessive and selfish desire for more than is needed.
His greed for money led him to embezzle funds from his company.


A strong desire to achieve success, often through hard work.
Her ambition led her to become the youngest CEO in the company's history.


Often associated with materialism and avarice.
The corporate world's greed has sometimes led to environmental degradation.


Often paired with motivation and a vision for the future.
His ambition to improve community healthcare transformed the local hospital.


An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth
"Many ... attach to competition the stigma of selfish greed" (Henry Fawcett).


An eager or strong desire to achieve something, such as fame or power.


A selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions.
His greed was his undoing.


The object or goal desired
Her ambition is the presidency.


To desire in a greedy manner, or to act on such a desire.


An eager desire or longing; greediness; as, a greed of gain.


Excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves


Reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins)


Can ambition turn into greed?

Yes, when the pursuit of goals becomes obsessive and disregards ethics.

What is the fundamental difference between greed and ambition?

Greed is a selfish excess, while ambition is a positive drive for achievement.

Is greed an inherent trait?

It's more often a learned behavior influenced by societal and environmental factors.

Are all ambitious people successful?

Not necessarily, as success depends on many factors, including opportunities and effort.

Do greed and ambition affect relationships differently?

Greed often harms relationships, while ambition can positively influence them if balanced.

Does ambition require discipline?

Yes, achieving ambitious goals typically requires discipline and hard work.

Can greed lead to legal consequences?

Yes, especially if it involves illegal activities like fraud or theft.

Can ambition be harmful?

If not balanced, extreme ambition can lead to burnout or neglect of personal relationships.

Can ambition be taught?

Yes, through encouragement and fostering a growth mindset.

Is greed a cause of economic inequality?

It can be, as excessive accumulation by a few can lead to wider disparities.

Is greed always related to money?

No, greed can also be for power, status, or possessions.

Is greed ever justified?

Ethically, greed is rarely, if ever, justified as it involves excessive or unfair gain.

How does society view greed and ambition?

Greed is generally viewed negatively, while ambition is often admired.

How do greed and ambition affect decision-making?

Greed can lead to short-sighted or unethical decisions, while ambition fosters long-term planning and ethical considerations.

Do children exhibit greed or ambition early on?

Children can show both, influenced by their environment and upbringing.

Is greed a sign of insecurity?

It can be, as some people use accumulation as a way to compensate for perceived shortcomings.

Does ambition always lead to happiness?

Not always, as the pursuit of goals must be balanced with other aspects of life for overall happiness.

How do greed and ambition affect personal growth?

Greed often stifles growth, focusing on accumulation, while ambition encourages self-improvement and learning.

Can ambition be harmful to mental health?

Excessive ambition without balance can lead to stress and mental health issues.

Can society function without ambition?

A lack of ambition can lead to stagnation, so some level of ambition is necessary for progress.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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