Definition of Machiavellian
- He relied on Machiavellian tactics to get elected.
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
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.
First Known Use: 1572See Words from the same year
: using clever lies and tricks in order to get or achieve something : clever and dishonest
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