Definition of efficient
1 : being or involving the immediate agent in producing an effect <the efficient action of heat in changing water to steam>
2 : productive of desired effects; especially : productive without waste <an efficient worker>
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
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
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
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
<that manual lawn mower is not a very efficient tool for doing a huge yard>
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.
Origin and Etymology of efficient
Middle English, from Medieval French or Latin; Medieval French, from Latin efficient-, efficiens, from present participle of efficere
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of efficient
EFFICIENT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of efficient for English Language Learners
: capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy
EFFICIENT Defined for Kids
Definition of efficient for Students
: capable of bringing about a desired result with little waste (as of time or energy) <an efficient worker>
Seen and Heard
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