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 So when Al attacks and smothers her, there’s no magical plot device or deus ex machina to save her. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emerald Fennell Breaks Down That Promising Young Woman Ending," 28 Dec. 2020 Midway through season 2 of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, Five (Aidan Gallagher) decides to go for a last-ditch deus ex machina and seeing no other option, starts reciting ancient Greek. Rachel Paige,, "Five’s Ancient Greek Is The Key To Everything In Umbrella Academy Season 2," 5 Aug. 2020 But the biopic, which changes the race and backstory of Peg Entwistle, an actor who leapt to her death off the Hollywood sign, gets saved from censorship by a deus ex machina. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "Hollywood Overindulges Ryan Murphy’s Wishful Thinking," 10 May 2020 While a pat deus ex machina nearly dims the denouement, Belgravia is worthwhile for the performances alone. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Belgravia': TV Review," 10 Apr. 2020 But the deus ex machina of an overwhelming public health crisis has changed things. Steven Levy, Wired, "Has the Coronavirus Killed the Techlash?," 20 Mar. 2020 Bloomberg’s poor debate performances discouraged moderates still looking for a deus ex machina. Molly Ball, Time, "Joe Biden's Super Tuesday Surge Reshapes the Democratic Race," 4 Mar. 2020 Free legal abortions and free birth control will force writers to give up pregnancy as the deus ex machina. Gloria Steinem, Time, "50 Years Ago, Gloria Steinem Wrote an Essay For TIME About Her Hopes For Women’s Futures. Here’s What She'd Add Today," 5 Mar. 2020 There are fortunate instances of mistaken identity, and other moments of plot-sustaining coincidence that may call to mind that classical contraption the deus ex machina. Jonathan Dee, The New Yorker, "Fate and Fury in James McBride’s “Deacon King Kong”," 24 Feb. 2020

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

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deus ex machina.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for deus ex machina

deus ex machina

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

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