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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Ryan Tannehill is entrenched given what an efficient play maker he's been during consecutive playoff runs. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Record-setting quarterback turnover a strong possibility for 2021 NFL season," 18 Feb. 2021 Southern homes aren't set up for efficient heating the way northern houses are. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "How to Stay Warm Without Power," 17 Feb. 2021 Affiliating virtual brands with celebrities is an efficient way to establish that. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "We all live in Flavortown now," 16 Feb. 2021 As parents, especially moms, continue to juggle atypical work schedules, remote learning and everyday household demands intensified by COVID-19, telehealth provides efficient access to medical specialists when family members need it most. Dallas News, "Virtual medical care relieves stress for parents in North Texas," 16 Feb. 2021 Mindful of the health risks, many Catholic churches have arranged for virtual worship services and efficient, in-person ashes. Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune, "Lent kits, ashes to go mark Ash Wednesday during pandemic," 15 Feb. 2021 The risk of contracting COVID-19 while wearing a surgical mask on a plane is low due to the efficient air circulation inside the cabin, according to a Defense Department study from October 2020. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner, "Southwest Airlines CEO warns mandated virus tests before flights could put 'jobs at risk'," 11 Feb. 2021 Drummond scored a game-high 28 points on an efficient 12-of-17 from the field to go with 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 30 minutes. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Cleveland Cavaliers’ slide continues against Milwaukee Bucks in 124-99 loss," 7 Feb. 2021 In her opinion, devising brutally efficient tactics resembles a game. Joann S. Lublin, WSJ, "How Women Can Ditch the Guilt When Juggling Careers and Family," 7 Feb. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about efficient

Time Traveler for efficient

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for efficient

Last Updated

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Efficient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/efficient. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on efficient

What made you want to look up efficient? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!