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The antonym of “greedy” is “generous”. Is there a word for “not greedy” (one who is content with what he has)?

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closed as too broad by tchrist Nov 26 '17 at 17:10

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    Perhaps undemanding (or moderate, temperate, but those are getting to be rather "dated" usages for this context). – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '15 at 14:14
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    The trouble with "satisfied", "sated", "content" etc (see below) is that they could simply represent the temporary condition of a very greedy person. – Irefuteitthus Jan 9 '15 at 15:57
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    Being content sounds neutral to me, is that an antonym? What if the person likes to see others receive before himself? – Octopus Jan 9 '15 at 18:05
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    Snarky answer: the opposite of "greedy" is "lazy": rexegg.com/regex-quantifiers.html :D – neminem Jan 9 '15 at 23:21
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    lazy -- not only in REGEX as @neminem suggests, but also in the mathematical theory of numeration systems. :D – yo' Jan 10 '15 at 10:16

19 Answers 19

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(one who is content with what he has)

But you just used the perfect word to describe a person who is content with what they have: Content. (Hence also, satisfied, sated).

Though to go to the far end of the spectrum so as to be an opposite rather than just different, you'd want ascetic to cover someone who consciously abstains (abstemious, abstinent) from the pleasures the greedy person seeks out.

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    Thanks, Jon. In a sentence like: “Being a greedy person, he....” But to use “content”, I think, the sentence should be “Being content with what he has, he....” Can we just say “Being content, he....”? – blackened Jan 9 '15 at 15:56
  • It would depend on the wider context whether content was enough on its own. This is also true of greedy which tends to be taken as being about food, but can be about other things when the context allows. – Jon Hanna Jan 9 '15 at 16:41
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    Hey, Jon, nice beard! :-) – Cyberherbalist Jan 9 '15 at 16:41
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    @Cyberherbalist ah, I can't take credit for it, it grows all by itself. – Jon Hanna Jan 9 '15 at 16:42
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    The Content trait, in the game Crusader Kings II, is immediately what I thought after reading the question. Used as the opposite of the Ambitious trait. – DoubleDouble Jan 12 '15 at 16:02
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nonmaterialistic could be a candidate.

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    That could do in a philosophy journal. – blackened Jan 9 '15 at 14:27
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Modest ?

"I have modest needs"

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  • I agree that “modest” and “not greedy” are somewhat connected at some level; I am not sure whether either one implies the other. – blackened Jan 9 '15 at 18:02
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"Abstemious", or even "ascetic", could be used when describing someone's attitude to food, drink etc.

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9

Considerate, appealing to the social dimension of greed.

Being greedy, he took all of the cookies for himself.
Not being greedy, he took only one cookie for himself.
Being considerate, he took only one cookie for himself.
Being generous, he left all of the cookies for others.

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    Or, as I've offered in my own answer, "Being fair, he shared the cookies with everyone else." – ClickRick Jan 12 '15 at 14:50
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Moderate, average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree of wants or desires.

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6

The word 'frugal' could be used to describe someone who is 'not greedy.'

Tom was a frugal man.

The word frugal means:

  1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful

  2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty:

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    Could be okay in some context; though it is not the case that a greedy person is not economical, or wasteful. – blackened Jan 9 '15 at 18:24
  • True, the world frugal is often an antonym to stingy compared to greedy. – Ronald Jan 9 '15 at 18:30
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    One could be frugal with their money, BECAUSE they are greedy. They don't seem exclusive to me. – Octopus Jan 9 '15 at 19:53
  • @Octopus Complimentary, even. I find that many greedy people (those who never give for charity or otherwise) are also downright cheap. – fredsbend Jan 10 '15 at 2:06
  • @blackened: Double negatives thwart my limited English, so I thought to rewrite your comment\: 'it is not the case that a greedy person is <not economical>, or wasteful' (ie: the 'not' applies only to 'economical) = 'it is the case that a greedy person can be economical'. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Jan 10 '15 at 3:07
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You could use sated, if the rest of the context is clear.

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4

Greedy could be a synonym for selfish, of which selfless would be an antonym.

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    But when someone is said to be selfless, you do not necessarily picture someone who is not greedy. – blackened Jan 9 '15 at 18:26
  • @selfless I somewhat disagree. Wouldn't a greedy person want to keep all or most of what they have? – HarryCBurn Jan 10 '15 at 1:00
  • Yes, but as per the OP, we are not looking for an antonym (OP offers the better-fitting 'generous' anyway), rather a neutral ground. – OJFord Jan 10 '15 at 4:33
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Satisfied means content. Its etymology traces back to a word for "enough," so someone who is satisfied has enough and does not yearn for more.

  • Yes, but you might also feel "satisfied" after stuffing yourself with a huge meal. – 200_success Jan 10 '15 at 0:06
  • According to Merriam-Webster, there are five different definitions of "satisfy." It's certainly not the only polysemous word in the English language, and it doesn't make its definition of "content or pleased" any less fitting for this context. – Nicole Jan 10 '15 at 0:20
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I would use altruistic.

Greedy is almost directly a synonym for selfish (using Google's definition):

having or showing an intense and selfish desire for something...

Altruistic is almost directly a synonym for selfless (emph. mine):

showing a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish

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    Altruistic implies a certain sort of generosity. Being not greedy doesn't necessarily imply generosity, just the absence of being greedy. – britishtea Jan 10 '15 at 0:50
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    Greedy and selfish are not synonyms. – Jack Aidley Jan 10 '15 at 15:52
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The word for "not greedy" is "ungreedy"!

There are various near-synonyms for "content", which is a slightly different thing as others have pointed out. Someone can be both greedy (as a character trait) and content with what they have right at this moment (as their current state). Perhaps they're sitting in a heap of cake.

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Beneficent and charitable might be a good place to start.

It is defined as characteristic of being helpful and giving, more or less. But I don't think there's a clear antonym to greedy. I don't think there's a word for someone who gives money to people who need it.

  • I would also add benevolent, though that is not specific to money. – fredsbend Jan 10 '15 at 2:08
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A greedy person uses lots of resources, whereas a parsimonious person would not.

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  • Except that "parsimonious" is often interpreted as "stingy". Which is often considered the same as "greedy". – Hot Licks Jan 10 '15 at 23:22
  • Citation please? I would consider stinginess and greed to be two distinct concepts. – user3490 Jan 10 '15 at 23:52
  • Google "define stingy" ->"money-grubbing" -> "acquisitive" -> "greedy". – Hot Licks Jan 11 '15 at 0:58
  • A greedy person doesn't necessarily use lots of resources, they may just want to acquire lots of things. One can be greedy and parsimonious. – nnnnnn Jan 11 '15 at 2:26
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In the context of programming, greedy refers to a wasteful or intensive process; so a "non-greedy" process could be considered economical, efficient, or optimal/optimized. How about "Spartan"?

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. Please write to your best standard, using proper capitalization. – andy256 Jan 11 '15 at 0:50
  • Actually in the context of programming 'greedy' usually refers to 'regular expressions'. Here it means 'finding as many matches as possible' and its opposite is 'lazy', meaning 'as few matches as possible'. – TaW Jan 11 '15 at 10:35
  • Within the context of regular expressions, I believe the term "non-greedy" is used most extensively. – Octopus Feb 5 '15 at 21:02
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Given the broad nature of the question as it has been asked, I offer the word fair (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fair, "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice") as in this example:

Being greedy, he always took the most lucrative deals for himself.

vs

Being fair, he shared the most lucrative sales around the team.

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If nirvana were not so poorly understood in English, then it would be almost perfect.

A significant, and necessary, aspect of nirvana is freedom from desire, which is difficult to distinguish from your parenthetical, "one who is content with what he has."

Nirvana means "to blow out", as in "to blow out a candle's flame." In Buddhism, one of the three flames a Buddhist seeks to blow out is the flame of raga, which is translated as attachment, passion, or desire.

For more insight into nirvana, consider that in Hinduism and other Indian philosophies, the attainment of (or possibly, state of) nirvana is moksha, which is a sophisticated idea but notably includes the requirement of artha. Artha is the attainment of, or process of attaining, all things that are necessary to live. Because artha is one of four goals, it must be balanced against the other three, and if one were to live in excess of artha, then one would violate one or more of the other goals. In total, the concepts of artha and moksha support the idea that nirvana must include a condition of "not greedy."

Nevertheless, if your audience is from a culture born of the Hellenistic-Roman world, then my guess is that they will misinterpret nirvana to mean something like salvation or heaven, so your true meaning may be lost--despite the noble efforts of Hermann Hesse.

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Abstinent.

The word abstinent means abstaining from indulgence, whereas greedy means driven to indulgence. There is a food/drink/sex association with abstinence, but that is certainly not the only meaning.

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minimalist or minimalism--a broad concept applied to many human activities. Minimalism emphasizes simplicity, The term is applied to styles in art, music, architecture, automobile design (e.g. Colin Chapman). It can be applied to government policies which de-emphasize elaborate regulations. On the personal level, minimalism applies to a life-style that minimizes clutter (not simply clutter in the home but clutter in one's personal affairs--romantic, financial (minimalist trading techniques on Forex), spiritual, material, travel and more. A minimalist life-style is much like my own.This minimalist has a decent income, but owns no house, no phone, no car (rides a bicycle), has no insurance (although 75 years old), does not visit doctors or dentists because he doesn't need them. He employs his own cures for ailments aided by an immune system kept strong by rigorous exercise, simple but healthy diet and intellectual curiosity (foreign language study). He has no wife and no children. He travels but doesn't need much money since he stays abroad for long periods in foreign countries working at jobs abroad. He thinks money is not necessary for world travel--an adventurous spirit is necessary.This is extreme, but you see the general form of minimalism.

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