adjective ef·fi·cient \ i-ˈfi-shənt \
|Updated on: 18 Aug 2018

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



Examples of efficient in a Sentence

  1. 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 VerducciSports Illustrated5 Mar. 2001
  2. 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 BaumannCommonweal18 July 1997
  3. 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 EllmannOscar Wilde(1984) 1988
  4. 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 MinifieGourmetNovember 1988
  5. that manual lawn mower is not a very efficient tool for doing a huge yard

Recent Examples of efficient from the Web

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.

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 Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin efficient-, efficiens, from present participle of efficere

Synonym Discussion of 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

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


adjective ef·fi·cient \ i-ˈfi-shənt \

Definition of efficient for Students

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



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