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

One dose of antibiotics is very efficient in killing off a lot of bacteria that can't resist the effects of the drug. Svenja Lohner, Scientific American, "How Do You Stop Superbugs?," 4 July 2019 Cars coming off the Ford assembly lines had to be more than reliable, efficient and functional. Bart Barnes, Washington Post, "Auto industry icon Lee Iacocca dies at 94. He helped launch the Ford Mustang and saved Chrysler from bankruptcy.," 2 July 2019 Cars coming off the Ford assembly lines had to be more than reliable, efficient and functional. Bart Barnes, The Denver Post, "Lee Iacocca, who rescued Chrysler from bankruptcy in the 1980s, dies at 94," 2 July 2019 Losing a day of work made some employees anxious about maintaining their workloads, but the all-remote company learned how to be more efficient. Kathryn Vasel, CNN, "Four day work weeks sound too good to be true. These companies make it work," 1 July 2019 The 25-year-old from France has rapturous groundstrokes and is equally efficient when forced on the defensive. Vanja Lakic, SI.com, "Sofia Kenin and David Goffin Among Sleepers to Watch at Wimbledon," 29 June 2019 Escobar is efficient at the plate posting one of the team's highest splits (.284/.345/.539), with 90 hits and 63 RBIs in 317 at-bats. Dana Scott, azcentral, "What to watch in sports this weekend," 28 June 2019 According to Coggs, this effort will be more efficient than assigning a task force to survey the involvement of each department in the area. William Langhorne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee officials announce local effort to address climate change and economic inequality," 27 June 2019 A day after manager Bob Melvin said that Mengden needed to be more efficient, Mengden got numerous quick outs in working six scoreless innings in the A’s 2-0 victory over the Cardinals. Susan Slusser, SFChronicle.com, "Daniel Mengden back up and terrific in A’s 2-0 win at St. Louis," 26 June 2019

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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Statistics for efficient

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for efficient

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

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More Definitions for efficient

efficient

adjective

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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