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adjective ex·pe·di·ent \ik-ˈspē-dē-ənt\

Simple Definition of expedient

  • : providing an easy and quick way to solve a problem or do something

Full Definition of expedient

  1. 1 :  suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance

  2. 2 :  characterized by concern with what is opportune; especially :  governed by self-interest

ex·pe·di·ent·ly adverb

Examples of expedient

  1. Marley found it expedient to maintain social relationships with gunmen and politicans from both political parties. —Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone, 24 Feb. 1994

  2. The marble floor … gave the hall the aspect of a cathedral, and the walls were decorated with aphorisms such as Cicero's THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE IS THE HIGHEST LAW, a phrase he found curiously—or at least potentially—expedient in what was certainly designed as a temple to the idea of law. —Tom Clancy, Patriot Games, 1987

  3. Under political pressure and at the urging of Jefferson, Madison finally (but grudgingly) admitted that a bill of rights might help, over time, to instill in the people a greater respect for “the fundamental maxims of free government.” But even as he was sheparding the first amendments through Congress, in 1789, he privately described them (amazingly enough) as a “nauseous project,” required only for expedient reasons of politics. —Jack N. Rakove, Atlantic, December 1986

  4. They found it expedient to negotiate with the terrorists.

  5. Do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

Origin of expedient

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin expedient-, expendiens, present participle of expedire to extricate, prepare, be useful, from ex- + ped-, pes foot — more at foot

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of expedient

expedient, politic, advisable mean dictated by practical or prudent motives. expedient usually implies what is immediately advantageous without regard for ethics or consistent principles <a politically expedient decision>. politic stresses judiciousness and tactical value but usually implies some lack of candor or sincerity <a politic show of interest>. advisable applies to what is practical, prudent, or advantageous but lacks the derogatory implication of expedient and politic <sometimes it's advisable to say nothing>.

Rhymes with expedient



noun ex·pe·di·ent \ik-ˈspē-dē-ənt\

Simple Definition of expedient

  • : an easy and quick way to solve a problem or do something : an expedient solution

Full Definition of expedient

  1. :  something done or used to achieve a particular end usually quickly or temporarily :  an expedient action or solution

Examples of expedient

  1. In 1882, racing to meet the deadline on Life on the Mississippi, he [Mark Twain] boasted to W.D. Howells that he had managed to churn out 9,500 words in a day, having resorted to the old hack's expedient of copying out large chunks from other people's books … —Jonathan Raban, Times Literary Supplement, 21–27 Sept. 1990

  2. The Viet Cong taught the peasants to dig cave shelters under the sleeping platforms rural Vietnamese cover with mats of woven straw and use as beds. This expedient gave the peasants a handy shelter right inside the house, unless that house happened to be one of those set afire by the napalm or the white phosphorus, called Willy Peter in U.S. military idiom. —Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988

  3. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. —Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience,” 1849

  4. For it is plain that every word we speak is in some degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express the particular business they are to discourse on. —Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726

  5. The government chose short-term expedients instead of a real economic policy.

  6. We can solve this problem by the simple expedient of taking out another loan.

Origin of expedient

(see 1expedient)

First Known Use: 1630

Synonym Discussion of expedient

resource, resort, expedient, shift, makeshift, stopgap mean something one turns to in the absence of the usual means or source of supply. resource and resort apply to anything one falls back upon <exhausted all of their resources> <a last resort>. expedient may apply to any device or contrivance used when the usual one is not at hand or not possible <a flimsy expedient>. shift implies a tentative or temporary imperfect expedient <desperate shifts to stave off foreclosure>. makeshift implies an inferior expedient adopted because of urgent need or allowed through indifference <old equipment employed as a makeshift>. stopgap applies to something used temporarily as an emergency measure <a new law intended only as a stopgap>.

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February 9, 2016

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