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ex·​pe·​di·​ent ik-ˈspē-dē-ənt How to pronounce expedient (audio)
: suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance
: characterized by concern with what is opportune
especially : governed by self-interest
expediently adverb


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: something done or used to achieve a particular end usually quickly or temporarily : an expedient action or solution
Choose the Right Synonym for expedient


expedient, politic, advisable mean dictated by practical or prudent motives.

expedient usually implies what is immediately advantageous without regard for ethics or consistent principles.

a politically expedient decision

politic stresses judiciousness and tactical value but usually implies some lack of candor or sincerity.

a politic show of interest

advisable applies to what is practical, prudent, or advantageous but lacks the derogatory implication of expedient and politic.

sometimes it's advisable to say nothing


resource, resort, expedient, shift, makeshift, stopgap mean something one turns to in the absence of the usual means or source of supply.

resource and resort apply to anything one falls back upon.

exhausted all of their resources
a last resort

expedient may apply to any device or contrivance used when the usual one is not at hand or not possible.

a flimsy expedient

shift implies a tentative or temporary imperfect expedient.

desperate shifts to stave off foreclosure

makeshift implies an inferior expedient adopted because of urgent need or allowed through indifference.

old equipment employed as a makeshift

stopgap applies to something used temporarily as an emergency measure.

a new law intended only as a stopgap

Examples of expedient in a Sentence

Adjective Marley found it expedient to maintain social relationships with gunmen and politicans from both political parties. Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone, 24 Feb. 1994
The marble floor … gave the hall the aspect of a cathedral, and the walls were decorated with aphorisms such as Cicero's THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE IS THE HIGHEST LAW, a phrase he found curiously—or at least potentially—expedient in what was certainly designed as a temple to the idea of law. Tom Clancy, Patriot Games, 1987
Under political pressure and at the urging of Jefferson, Madison finally (but grudgingly) admitted that a bill of rights might help, over time, to instill in the people a greater respect for "the fundamental maxims of free government." But even as he was shepherding the first amendments through Congress, in 1789, he privately described them (amazingly enough) as a "nauseous project," required only for expedient reasons of politics. Jack N. Rakove, Atlantic, December 1986
They found it expedient to negotiate with the terrorists. Do the right thing, not the expedient thing. Noun In 1882, racing to meet the deadline on Life on the Mississippi, he [Mark Twain] boasted to W. D. Howells that he had managed to churn out 9,500 words in a day, having resorted to the old hack's expedient of copying out large chunks from other people's books … Jonathan Raban, Times Literary Supplement, 21–27 Sept. 1990
The Viet Cong taught the peasants to dig cave shelters under the sleeping platforms rural Vietnamese cover with mats of woven straw and use as beds. This expedient gave the peasants a handy shelter right inside the house, unless that house happened to be one of those set afire by the napalm or the white phosphorus, called Willy Peter in U.S. military idiom. Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988
For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience," 1849
For it is plain that every word we speak is in some degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express the particular business they are to discourse on. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726
The government chose short-term expedients instead of a real economic policy. We can solve this problem by the simple expedient of taking out another loan.
Recent Examples on the Web
Sidestepping divisive questions might be politically expedient, limiting attention on the party’s increasingly out-of-step agenda. Editorial Board, Washington Post, 7 July 2024 The laws of supply and demand suggest that the expedient way to intervene in this deplorable cycle is to stop the excessive reproduction of potential companion animals. Voice Of The People, New York Daily News, 1 Mar. 2024
But what started as a temporary expedient evolved into a regular part of the Fed’s toolbox, one that the Fed has used too frequently, some economists say. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, 3 May 2024 But trade policies would be only a temporary expedient. Daniel H. Rosen, Foreign Affairs, 27 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for expedient 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'expedient.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin expedient-, expendiens, present participle of expedire to extricate, prepare, be useful, from ex- + ped-, pes foot — more at foot

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1630, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of expedient was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near expedient

Cite this Entry

“Expedient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expedient. Accessed 14 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
ex·​pe·​di·​ent ik-ˈspēd-ē-ənt How to pronounce expedient (audio)
: suitable for bringing about a desired result often without regard to what is fair or right
expediently adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a means to accomplish an end
especially : one used in place of a better means that is not available

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