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) , -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

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,, "'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 In a conventional telling of the European air war, the P-51 simply materializes, a deus ex machina. David A. Price, WSJ, "‘Big Week’ Review: The Seven-Day Blow," 23 Nov. 2018 That makes the relentlessly upbeat ending — with its dutiful deus ex machina and an exhortation to just forget your worries since tomorrow has to be better — land with a thud. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Mary Poppins Returns — with a sadder story and forgettable songs," 12 Dec. 2018 Enter the deus ex machina of washing machines, one that does all that, and behind an ultra-sleek façade, to boot. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, "The Washing Machine of the Future," 15 Oct. 2018 Numbers are not expected to get better for coal absent the Trump administration playing deus ex machina with the Defense Production Act, which would allow the government to artificially keep coal plants open despite unprofitability. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "US energy agency: Sorry coal, natural gas is having another record summer," 11 July 2018 What if, instead of climate change or nuclear winter, we were delivered that deus ex machina? New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: Asteroid Day," 20 June 2018

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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24 Jun 2019

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The first known use of deus ex machina was in 1697

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deus ex machina


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

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showing courage and determination

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