efficient

adjective
ef·​fi·​cient | \ i-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce efficient (audio) \

Definition of efficient

1 : productive of desired effects especially : capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials) an efficient worker efficient machinery
2 : being or involving the immediate agent in producing an effect the efficient action of heat in changing water to steam

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Choose the Right Synonym for efficient

effective, effectual, efficient, efficacious mean producing or capable of producing a result. effective stresses the actual production of or the power to produce an effect. an effective rebuttal effectual suggests the accomplishment of a desired result especially as viewed after the fact. the measures to stop the pilfering proved effectual efficient suggests an acting or a potential for action or use in such a way as to avoid loss or waste of energy in effecting, producing, or functioning. an efficient small car efficacious suggests possession of a special quality or virtue that gives effective power. a detergent that is efficacious in removing grease

Comparing Efficient, Effective, and Proficient

These three words cover some overlapping territory.

Efficient most often describes what is capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy. While the word can be applied to both people and things, it is far more commonly applied to things, such as machines, systems, processes, and organizations. The focus of the word is on how little is wasted or lost while the desired results are produced.

Effective typically describes things—such as policies, treatments, arguments, and techniques—that do what they are intended to do. People can also be described as effective when they accomplish what they set out to accomplish, but the word is far more often applied to things.

Proficient typically describes people, and it often is followed by the preposition at. If you are proficient at something, you are very good at it. You are, in fact, so good at doing it that you are unusually efficient when you do it. One can also be proficient in something, such as a language.

Examples of efficient in a Sentence

Like a page-turner of a novel, [Nomar] Garciaparra keeps you eager to see what comes next, especially this season, when he will have the most efficient RBI machine in baseball, free-agent signee Manny Ramirez, riding shotgun with him. — Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 5 Mar. 2001 Short and muscular, he is as efficient as a surgeon, cracking eggs with one hand and tossing the shells into the basket under the counter behind him without looking, flipping bread into the slots of a row of toasters, and literally throwing "to go" orders ten feet down the counter to the guy manning the cash register. — Paul Baumann, Commonweal, 18 July 1997 Wilde was wearing two emeralds,  … one on the little finger of each hand. That on the left was the efficient cause of all joys, that on the right of misfortunes. Asked why he continued to wear the one on the right, Wilde said, "One needs misfortunes to live happily." — Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, (1984) 1988 Originally designed for the preparation of desserts, the woks eventually proved their versatility as efficient vessels for stir-frying, deep-frying, and the reduction of liquids. — Kemp Miles Minifie, Gourmet, November 1988 that manual lawn mower is not a very efficient tool for doing a huge yard
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Recent Examples on the Web Margins on retail sales improved in 2019 and the company was more efficient in its customer acquisition costs than in years prior. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, "Federal government now turning to Amazon, Overstock for ‘micro-purchases’," 1 July 2020 The Tesla Model 3 uses a different, more efficient cooling system that does away with the bending coils in the Model S and Model X. Los Angeles Times, "Tesla battery cooling system is subject of federal safety probe," 1 July 2020 More TuSimple was founded in 2015 and is one of a number of startups developing technology aimed at making long-haul trucking cheaper and more efficient. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "TuSimple Adds Logistics Operators to Self-Driving Trucks Effort," 1 July 2020 Energy-efficient windows can also help keep cool air in (and, in the winter, trap warm air indoors). Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "Where electricity bills are set to surge around the U.S. this summer," 1 July 2020 Practically any lure in your tackle box can be fished around a boathouse, but some are more efficient than others. Steve Price, Field & Stream, "Catch More Bass Near Boathouses and Docks," 24 June 2020 Running errands in leggings and a hoodie, pre-yoga or instead of it, is considered an efficient way to go from home to gym to store and back. Flora Tsapovsky, Wired, "Once a WFH Staple, Athleisure Gets Down to Business," 22 June 2020 Also, a pulse survey is an efficient way to get important feedback. Doug Claffey, Cincinnati.com, "Top Workplaces Cincinnati: 5 musts to maximize remote working," 11 June 2020 Regrettably, market logic has come to overtake medicinal product innovation, including the unproven premise that competition is an efficient way to advance science and deliver the best solutions for public health. Els Torreele, STAT, "Collective intelligence, not market competition, will deliver the best Covid-19 vaccine," 10 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'efficient.' 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 efficient

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for efficient

Middle English, "active, immediate (of a cause)," borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin efficient-, efficiens "producing or giving rise to something, immediate (of a cause), active," from present participle of efficere "to make, bring about, produce, carry out" — more at effect entry 1

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Time Traveler for efficient

Time Traveler

The first known use of efficient was in the 14th century

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Statistics for efficient

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Efficient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/efficient. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for efficient

efficient

adjective
How to pronounce efficient (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of efficient

: capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

efficient

adjective
ef·​fi·​cient | \ i-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce efficient (audio) \

Kids Definition of efficient

: capable of bringing about a desired result with little waste (as of time or energy) an efficient worker

Other Words from efficient

efficiently adverb

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Comments on efficient

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