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I'm looking for a single word for describing a person "whose motive is dictated by money"...I seem to recall there was an elegant word for this, but I can't remember it now...can someone help?

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Wow...I certainly didn't expect to be inundated with so many good answers !! Makes it hard for me to choose only one out of all these :( - but I've upvoted all the ones which were useful to me !! – TCSGrad Apr 5 '11 at 6:15

15 Answers 15

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Mercenary comes to mind
But there are more:

acquisitive, avaricious, bribable, corrupt, covetous, grabby, grasping, miserly, money-grubbing, selfish, sordid, stingy, unethical, unprincipled, unscrupulous, venal

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'venal', 'avaricious' sound like what is really sought. – Mitch Apr 3 '11 at 15:05
+1 for money-grubbing. – Zippy Apr 3 '11 at 15:58
Althoug money-grubbing isn't a single word. – zneak Apr 3 '11 at 16:44
Nor "elegant," but my favorite too. – Callithumpian Apr 4 '11 at 4:12


Etymology: < Middle French pécunieux (c1370 as peccunieux in sense 1, 1498 as pecunieulx (plural) in the passage translated in quot. 1509 at sense 2; French pécunieux, now rare) and its etymon classical Latin pecūniōsus well provided with money, moneyed < pecūnia money (see pecunial adj.) + -ōsus -ous suffix.

The negative impecunious adj. is much more used.

  1. Well provided with money; moneyed, wealthy.
  2. Money-loving, avaricious; miserly, ungenerous; (also) frugal, thrifty.
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Ah, I saw the first version so I did not include it – mplungjan Apr 3 '11 at 19:17

"stingy" or "miserly" might be appropriate if the context refers to a motive not to spend money.

I'd use "greedy" if the motive was to acquire more money when the individual was already rich (and clearly didn't need the money).

"mercenary" would perhaps be better if the person was doing something only for the purpose of money, and not caring about other consequences.

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Perhaps chrematistic is the word you have in mind; I've heard it used this way although I don't think it's strictly correct. See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/chrematistic?qsrc=2446

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+1 for an interesting word at least. – Callithumpian Apr 3 '11 at 14:11

How about just plain greedy? They say the love of money is the root of all evil.

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Materialistic describes a person who is markedly more concerned with material things (such as money and possessions)

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I can't tell whether you are talking about a person who tries to save money or to earn/acquire it.

If you are after the former, then some great examples have already been given:

Thrifty, Miserly, Parsimonious and I would also suggest frugal as a slightly less negative option.

If you want the latter, I would suggest avaricious.

Almost everything I can think of seems to have negative connotation, so if you are trying to sound positive, you might need to use a word like ambitious or enterprising, which are not really dedicated to the money element, but do hint at it.

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Mercenary, grasping, venal and other synonyms already suggested are good, but they all are derogatory. If you want to put a neutral or positive spin on it, I would rather suggest money-oriented or money-driven.

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or maybe thrifty? – gpr Apr 3 '11 at 12:28

While 'pecunious' suggested by @tchrist sounds like the most technically accurate, in casual conversation the terms:

  • 'penny pincher', for someone always checking they don't overspend; or
  • 'bean counter', for someone always concerned with amounts of money spent or available to be spent; or
  • 'scrooge', for someone who goes to great lengths to avoid even fair expenses,

may well be what you're after.

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You may be looking for parsimonious or its more obsessive cousin, miserly.

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A positive take on one whose motivation is to save money is to call them economical.

(of a person or lifestyle) careful not to waste money or resources.

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I just realised the word you are trying to think of: avarice, the kind of word that is used in the Bible and by 19th century street-corner preachers.

A person whose every action is dictated by money is thus avaricious.

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You can link your word to an online definition that supports your answer and avoid needing to type extra characters. – Callithumpian Apr 3 '11 at 14:07

A single word for a person whose motive is dictated by money would be greed or greedy but that is a description of the person. What about a curmudgeon meaning a miserly cantankerous person?

Or a more positive take on the question like someone had offered up above (ie economical) would be frugal - to be good with one's resources.

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I was about to comment that curmudgeon doesn't mean miserly, but apparently it does. OED has "‘An avaricious churlish fellow; a miser, a niggard’ (Johnson)." Most usage I've seen majors on the cantankerous/churlish part. – Andrew Leach Jun 7 '13 at 9:17

moolah python ; paisa pig ; dabbudabba

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A good answer should provide an explanation, plus external links are encouraged (such as links to dictionary definitions in the case of a word request). – MετάEd Aug 6 '13 at 15:42

protected by tchrist Jul 7 '14 at 0:01

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