26 of the Best Synonyms and Antonyms for ‘Greedy’


By Dr Oliver Tearle

We all know what greed means; but how else can we describe greediness, other than with the word ‘greedy’? Greed can denote both general desire for something and gluttony, which tends to be specifically food-related. Here are some of the best synonyms for both senses of ‘greed’.


Synonyms for the word ‘greedy’

GLUTTONOUS is a word which relates specifically to eating, but can be used to describe someone who is greedy in their appetites, i.e., someone who eats to excess. Someone who does this is a glutton, a word derived from the Latin meaning to gulp or swallow down.

VORACIOUS is a similar term, but it tends to refer more specifically to the action of eating with greediness, so one might eat a meal voraciously. The word is also used figuratively of other things, such as books, such as when a person describes themselves as ‘a voracious reader’: we ‘devour’ books much as devour a meal. Indeed, the word is from the Latin for ‘devour’. Not to be confused with veracious, which means ‘true’ or ‘truthful’.

And talking of DEVOURING, that’s another useful synonym for greedy: someone who is voracious or greedy for something might be described as devouring, which is ultimately from another Latin word meaning to swallow or gulp something.

HUNGRY is from the Old English hungrig, and so has been part of the English language for a long time. Although it has denoted the state of needing food since the beginning, it has also meant ‘greedy’ or ‘having a strong desire for something’ since the thirteenth century.

RAVENOUS is from the Latin ravin meaning to ‘plunder’ or ‘carry off’ something: it’s used especially of birds of prey or other predatory animals hunting and carrying off another. The idea is that if you’re really hungry or greedy for something, you’re willing to go to extreme lengths to satisfy that hunger or greed.

Meanwhile, RAPACIOUS – from the Latin rapere meaning ‘seize’ – also means greedy, grasping, or desperately desirous for something.

As the word suggests, HOGGISH means ‘having the characteristics of a hog or pig’, but given pigs’ associations with a whole host of undesirable traits, this means that hoggish can variously mean lazy, dirty, slovenly, selfish, self-indulgent, or greedy.

Some people are so greedy for something – food, sex, or something pertaining to another appetite – that they can be described as INSATIABLE: i.e., unable to be satisfied, no matter how much they eat or drink or how many times they head to the bedroom to make the beast with two backs.

ESURIENT is a rare word from the Latin, meaning ‘to be hungry’. Esurience is hunger. The great Roman satirist Juvenal used a phrase, Græculus esuriens, which meant ‘hungry young Greeks’; influenced by this line, some people use esurient to mean ‘greedy’. The term has been in use in English since the seventeenth century.

EDACIOUS is a rarer word meaning ‘greedy’ or ‘eager’ in a figurative sense, although edacious initially meant ‘related to eating’ or ‘voracious’. The only two examples of edacious to mean ‘greedy’ in the OED are both from the nineteenth-century Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle, which suggests it didn’t exactly take off. It’s from the Latin for ‘to eat’: the same root that also gives us edible.

AVARICIOUS means ‘greedy for gain’, and is usually (though not exclusively) applied to wealth rather than eating. An avaricious person has an excessive desire to accumulate riches and they don’t care who they have to step over to acquire it. This term has been around since the fifteenth century. Another word for it is GRASPING.

They’re the best-known synonyms for ‘greedy’, but there are other greed-related terms, including some rare but rather handy words, which are worth a mention.

CUPIDITY is a word for covetousness or lust: an excessive desire or greed for something. The word is from the Latin cupidus meaning ‘eagerly desirous’. BARATHRUM refers to a person who eats as though they’re a bottomless pit, i.e., someone very gluttonous or, if you will, greedy.

Meanwhile, if you suffer from ALLOTRIOPHAGY, you have a craving for weird food. A VENTRIPOTENT person literally has a ‘powerful stomach’: they’re fat-bellied or gluttonous (the ventri- prefix, meaning ‘stomach’, is also the root of the word ‘ventriloquist’, which literally means ‘stomach-talker’, because the ventriloquist projects their voice so it doesn’t appear to come from their mouth.

The rare word GULOSITY (pronounced gyu-LOS-i-tee) is another, rarer way of signalling gluttony, greediness, or voraciousness. ADEPHAGOUS means ‘gluttonous’, as does INGLUVIOUS, but if you’re LUCRIPETOUS you’re specifically greedy for wealth, or money-hungry.


Antonyms for the word ‘greedy’

Now we’ve examined the origins and meanings of some of the leading synonyms for greedy, what about the main antonyms? Which words in common use mean not being greedy, but the opposite?

There are two distinct, yet loosely linked, aspects of the word greedy which it is worth disentangling from each other. First, there is the idea of greediness as over-indulgence. If you’re seeking a good antonym for this sense of ‘greedy’, the words TEMPERATE, MODERATE, and ABSTEMIOUS are all solid choices. The last of these – one of the few words in the English language which contains all five vowels once, in order (another being facetious) – is from the Latin meaning ‘refraining or abstaining from’ something.

Then there is the other meaning of ‘greedy’ which is concerned with being selfish or self-serving, hogging something for oneself and refusing to give some to others (e.g., a greedy person who eats all of the food and leaves nothing, or hardly anything, for others). Good antonym choices for this sense of ‘greedy’ include GENEROUS, CHARITABLE, and BENEVOLENT. For instance, Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol starts off as a greedy miser but ends up a benevolent member of society, sharing his wealth and his time with others.