deus ex machina

noun
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) , -ˌnä; -mə-ˈshē-nə \

Definition of deus ex machina

1 : 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
2 : 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

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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.

Examples of deus ex machina in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The 2020 Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody their new deus ex machina. Scott Oldham, Car and Driver, "The Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody Has No Sympathy for Its Tires," 22 Jan. 2020 Formally, calypso gives the novel its ballad shape; calypso also provides the deus ex machina happy ending. Dohra Ahmad, The New York Review of Books, "A Lark in West Indian London," 10 Jan. 2020 An entire political entertainment system that feasted on the next day’s hope for a deus ex machina now did eschatology as well. Matt Farwell, The New Republic, "The Forgotten Christian Terror Cult That Presaged Trump’s Memes," 22 Oct. 2019 Some two-and-a-half years into this routine, Democrats are still falling into the trap, waiting for a deus ex machina that never arrives. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Donald Trump’s Best Ally Against Impeachment," 23 Sep. 2019 And in the end, when a villain gets the drop on our hero, Tacoma is saved by the sudden appearance of his mentor in an amateurish, deus ex machina conclusion. Bruce Desilva, Dallas News, "'The Russian' by Ben Coes is a preposterous thriller," 30 July 2019 As for the ending, Beethoven’s original deus ex machina — virtue rewarded, evil punished — was referred to as a relic of a better time, but not something possible in the real world. Washington Post, "Reexamining opera, one classic at a time," 14 June 2019 But that idea vaporizes in the wake of a deus ex machina cheat. Ann Hornaday, chicagotribune.com, "'The Dead Don't Die' review: Jim Jarmusch's zombie tale lumbers along," 13 June 2019 But of course, there was never going to be a deus ex machina so early in the show. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Handmaid's Tale Episode 6 Finally Uses The Word "Rape"," 18 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deus ex machina.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of deus ex machina

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for deus ex machina

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

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The first known use of deus ex machina was in 1697

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Last Updated

4 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deus ex machina.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deus%20ex%20machina. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for deus ex machina

deus ex machina

noun
How to pronounce deus ex machina (audio) How to pronounce deus ex machina (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of deus ex machina

: a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve

More from Merriam-Webster on deus ex machina

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about deus ex machina

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