efficient

adjective
ef·​fi·​cient | \i-ˈfi-shənt \

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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Other Words from efficient

efficiently adverb

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

To track down food and ensure the survival of the colony, worker bees must draw on their knowledge of smells, patterns and efficient routes to and from the hive—a process that requires the insects to remember an encyclopedic amount of information. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "‘Safe’ Levels of Pesticide Still Hamper Bees’ Memory and Ability to Learn," 12 July 2018 Democracy might hardly seem the most efficient response to a half-century’s disorder in Colombia. James Stavridis, Time, "Democracy Isn't Perfect, But It Will Still Prevail," 12 July 2018 Telangana, for instance, has introduced direct cash payments to landholders, a project that could lead to the phasing out of less efficient subsidies. The Economist, "India’s government claims to subsidise farmers, but actually hurts them," 12 July 2018 One cause: Microscopic tracheal mites that infect the breathing tubes of bees, reducing their air flow, making them less efficient workers. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Why are these 250,000 bees hanging out on this sweet Downtown Boise rooftop?," 11 July 2018 Chen allowed only an unearned run and three hits over six innings in one of his most effective and efficient outings in 13 starts this season. Craig Davis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Barraclough blows save, but Marlins win in 10th on Rivera's hit," 3 July 2018 The simple solution would be to go to the nail salon, but that’s not always time or cost efficient. Janell M. Hickman, SELF, "9 Ways to Not Ruin Your At-Home Manicure," 29 June 2018 The team designed the furnishings to be as light as possible too, because a lighter boat uses less energy, and so is more efficient. Jack Stewart, WIRED, "The Funky Boat Circling the Planet on Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Gas," 5 July 2018 Remember last year, when the internet became obsessed with a viral video showing the most efficient way to cut a cake? Olivia Harrison, refinery29.com, "We've Been Cutting Watermelon Incorrectly Our Whole Lives," 28 June 2018

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

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Statistics for efficient

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

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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 \

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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