Learn English – Can ‘ambition’ be used as a verb


I am proofreading a doctoral thesis that has been written by a non-native English speaker (though the English level is quite high). I've never seen "ambition" used as a verb, but I did come across an article which mentioned that historically it was used as a verb with the meaning to campaign.

Here is the sentence: "(The school) ambitioned to join the local elite league and excel in the education of ‘high-achievers’".

Best Answer

The OED has a verb entry for ambition, but no examples more recent than 1881. It is in two main senses, the first of which is obsolete and doesn't appear to have been used since James I was on the throne!

  1. To move to ambition, to make desirous. Obs.

    a1628 F. Greville Life of Sidney (1652) Ded. sig. A4 Who..hath ambition'd me to make this offering.

  2. To be ambitious of, to desire strongly.

    a. Const. simple obj.

    1664 Marquis of Worcester in H. Dircks Life 2nd Marquis Worcester (1865) xvii. 270 Whatever I have or do ambition.

    1776 H. Walpole in Last Jrnls. (1859) II. 51 The Bishop of Chester had ambitioned the Bishopric of Winchester.

    1823 I. D'Israeli Curiosities of Lit. 2nd Ser. I. 268 Every noble youth..ambitioned the notice of the Lady Arabella.

    1881 R. Pigott in Macmillan's Mag. Dec. 174/2 The Fenian leaders ambitioned not the extinction of landlordism, but rather the reconciliation of landlords and tenants.

    b. Const. inf. or clause.

    1694 J. Clayton in Philos. Trans. 1693 (Royal Soc.) 17 979 Each ambitioning to engross as much as they can.

    1818 T. Jefferson Writings (1830) IV. 453 Who ambitioned to be his correspondent.

    1871 H. Smart Cecile 5 Ambitioning that her lover should make his mark.