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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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

This system would enhance the competitiveness of American firms that are more energy-efficient than their global competitors. WSJ, "Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends," 16 Jan. 2019 Those are designed for denser cargo, like large pallets of food and medicine, and thus are less efficient in their design and operation than vehicles optimized for this mission. Eric Adams, WIRED, "Bulgaria's First New Plane in Decades Is a Freakishly Strong Drone," 10 July 2018 More broadly, economists say trade restrictions make the economy less efficient. Washington Post, "Trump’s tariffs: What they are and how they will work," 9 July 2018 In fact, a NASA study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that rebounding exercise is 68 percent more efficient than jogging. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "From Trampoline Classes to Jump Roping, 6 Throwback Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Exercise," 20 June 2018 Drip irrigation is more efficient for watering perennials, flowers and vegetables than sprinkler irrigation. Calvin Finch, San Antonio Express-News, "Drought restrictions and options for parched yards," 8 June 2018 Cutting the lawn with a scissors or a riding mower may deliver the same outcome, but one is dramatically more efficient than the other. Josh Linkner, Detroit Free Press, "3 ways to boost your productivity," 2 June 2018 Arbitration supporters say that forum is cheaper and more efficient than traditional litigation. Greg Stohr, BostonGlobe.com, "Supreme Court says employers can bar worker class actions," 21 May 2018 The houseboat is energy efficient, with an underfloor heating and cooling system, a wood-burning stove and 50 solar panels on the roof. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "Rock ’n’ roll Living on a Nautical Man Cave," 14 Nov. 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, "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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Last Updated

17 Mar 2019

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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 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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