deus ex machina

de·​us ex ma·​chi·​na | \ˈdā-əs-ˌeks-ˈmä-ki-nə, -ˈma-, -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

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 The finale ended with a too-convenient deus ex machina, with a windfall from a federal flood disaster declaration solving the family’s financial troubles. James Poniewozik, New York Times, "How to Save ‘The Conners’ From Roseanne," 22 June 2018 Sure, some are still angered by the deus ex machina convenience of the messy, benevolent god guiding the humans and cylons alike, but the relationship between creators and their creations was always the central tenet of the series. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "The 10 best (and five worst) TV series finales of all time," 31 May 2018 But then, like a deus ex machina, the Google Lunar X Prize announced a set of interim goals—and rewards—that would give the flagging companies a carrot. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "The Japanese Space Bots That Could Build ‘Moon Valley’," 14 May 2018 When Thor is a literal deus ex machina in the battle for Wakanda, he and Captain America use the brief reprieve to poke fun at changes in their hair, faces, and otherwise. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "How Avengers: Infinity War uses humor to solve its story problems," 9 May 2018 Carmella’s Money in the Bank contract could act as the perfect deus ex machina that allows Asuka and Flair to continue their rivalry past WrestleMania. The Editors Of Gq, GQ, "WrestleMania 34 Is Going to Be a Goddang Blast," 6 Apr. 2018 He is assisted in his quest for knowledge by the Mobius Chair, which allows him to travel through space and time, not to mention offering up deus ex machina plot resolutions when writers require them. Graeme Mcmillan, The Hollywood Reporter, "Who Are Ava DuVernay's 'New Gods'?," 15 Mar. 2018 Potential deus ex machinas include the Oceanside community, where Aaron stayed behind a few episodes back to try to win recruits. Steve Johnson,, "Showtime at the Hilltop: A big 'Walking Dead' battle leaves questions for all," 26 Mar. 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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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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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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