deus ex machina


de·​us ex ma·​chi·​na ˈdā-əs-ˌeks-ˈmä-ki-nə How to pronounce deus ex machina (audio) -ˈma- How to pronounce deus ex machina (audio)
: a god introduced by means of a crane (see crane entry 1 sense 3a) in ancient Greek and Roman drama to decide the final outcome
: a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty
… the shipwreck, far from being a tragic peripety, is the deus ex machina which makes it possible for Defoe to present solitary labour … as a solution to the perplexities of economic and social reality.Ian Watt

Did you know?

The New Latin term deus ex machina is a translation of a Greek phrase and means literally "a god from a machine." "Machine," in this case, refers to the crane that held a god over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama. The practice of introducing a god at the end of a play to unravel and resolve the plot dates from at least the 5th century B.C.; Euripides (circa 484-406 B.C.) was one playwright who made frequent use of the device. Since the late 1600s, "deus ex machina" has been applied in English to unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order out of chaos in sudden and surprising ways.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Throughout the book, Webster functions more as a symbol of this idea than as a protagonist, disappearing for long stretches of the narrative only to reappear, deus ex machina–style, with a rousing speech defending national unity against growing secessionist influence. David Marques, The New Republic, 15 Nov. 2022 And yet the script (by the film’s director Ol Parker and co-writer Daniel Pipski) contrives to seat them next to each other at a series of events, like a mischievous deus ex machina with little imagination but magical command over seating placements. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Sep. 2022 There are no deus ex machina cheats. New York Times, 9 June 2022 These days, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming our version of the deus ex machina, promising to swoop in and solve our most pressing business problems. John Asquith, Forbes, 5 Nov. 2021 The goose is the deus ex machina! Dan Snierson,, 20 Mar. 2023 All certainly seems lost...that is, until a deus ex machina in the form of Luke Skywalker arrives right in time. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 28 Feb. 2023 Absent a deus ex machina in which a winged chariot is sent from the heavens to lower gas prices, end the war in Ukraine, lock up violent criminals, and secure the southern border, House Democrats are doomed. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 18 June 2022 Whereas some fantasists use magic as a deus ex machina which transforms their narrative into farce in short order, at his point a little numinous wonder would do the characters of the A Song of Ice and Fire a world of good. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 8 June 2011 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'deus ex machina.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin, a god from a machine, translation of Greek theos ek mēchanēs

First Known Use

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of deus ex machina was in 1697


Dictionary Entries Near deus ex machina

Cite this Entry

“Deus ex machina.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on deus ex machina

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!