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 What should happen in the future is a complicated question of what is efficient, what is prudent and what is fair. Michael Taylor, ExpressNews.com, "Taylor: The unfinished business of Fannie and Freddie," 5 Jan. 2021 Airlines are making moves to be more environmentally friendly, even though low fuel prices have taken the financial pressure off carriers to be more efficient. Dallas News, "DFW Airport wants to cut emissions to zero by 2030, but can it do it? And what does that mean?," 2 Jan. 2021 Distributors and charities said the program was efficient. NBC News, "Food banks fear possible end of USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program," 1 Jan. 2021 Solar above the clouds is more efficient, with higher exposure amounts and times. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "The Air Force Is Building a Spacecraft That Will Beam Solar Power to Earth," 30 Dec. 2020 Making buildings more energy efficient, modernizing the electric grid, installing charging stations for electric vehicles — these are measures that put people back to work. Editorial Board New York Times, Star Tribune, "The Biden administration: Policy ideas that could bridge the divide," 14 Dec. 2020 By installing solar panels and updating the facilities to be more energy efficient, the schools cut their yearly energy consumption by 1.6 million kilowatts and are on track to save $2.4 million over 20 years. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "Points of Progress: Solar power use boosts teacher pay, and more," 4 Dec. 2020 The best dishwashers can fight stains while staying quiet (and being energy efficient). Kate Tully Ellsworth, USA TODAY, "14 amazing dishwashers you can get on any budget," 25 Nov. 2020 Under the wide-ranging proposals, sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030, the government will back investment in electric vehicles, hydrogen, wind and nuclear power, and measures to make homes more energy efficient. Alex Morales, Fortune, "Facing an epic recession, Britain unveils its ‘green industrial revolution’ to jumpstart economy, create jobs," 18 Nov. 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

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Efficient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/efficient. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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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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