Ma·​chi·​a·​vel·​lian | \ ˌma-kē-ə-ˈve-lē-ən How to pronounce Machiavellian (audio) , -ˈvel-yən \

Definition of Machiavellian

1 : of or relating to Machiavelli or Machiavellianism
2 : suggesting the principles of conduct laid down by Machiavelli specifically : marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith He relied on Machiavellian tactics to get elected.

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Other Words from Machiavellian

Machiavellian noun

Machiavellian and Other Bad Behavior

While inspiring an eponym may seem like a fine way to achieve linguistic immortality, it must be said that many words taken from people’s names are not terribly complimentary. Machiavellian comes from the Italian political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), the author of the most famous treatise on bare-knuckled politics ever published, The Prince. Other less-than-laudatory English eponyms include the verb burke, after William Burke, a 19th century Irish criminal famous for smothering people and selling their bodies to be dissected; dunce, from John Duns Scotus, whose writings were widely ridiculed in the 16th century; and boycott, from Charles C. Boycott, a land manager in 19th century Ireland who was himself boycotted for charging high rents.

Examples of Machiavellian in a Sentence

a Machiavellian battle for control of the company yet another tale of a power-mad dictator with a Machiavellian plan to take over the world

First Known Use of Machiavellian

1572, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for Machiavellian

Niccolo Machiavelli

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Time Traveler for Machiavellian

Time Traveler

The first known use of Machiavellian was in 1572

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Cite this Entry

“Machiavellian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for Machiavellian


How to pronounce Machiavellian (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of Machiavellian

: using clever lies and tricks in order to get or achieve something : clever and dishonest

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Nglish: Translation of Machiavellian for Spanish Speakers

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