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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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
The $250,000 amount is the total authorized, and will not necessarily be paid out if lawyers reach an expedient resolution. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Sep. 2023 But like many expedient acts, Newsom’s promise proved less salutary with time and more like a set of handcuffs. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 11 Sep. 2023 Norm Miller, University of San Diego YES: Lease terms matter, but the city needs new space and this would be a fairly expedient solution, assuming the asbestos cleanup is not delayed. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Aug. 2023 Through the Collection, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III reveals the most direct and expedient path for sentient beings, Arhats, and Bodhisattvas to advance themselves. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 25 July 2023 Denver, Colorado has a politically expedient exemption as well. Ben Baldanza, Forbes, 5 May 2023 Russian aircraft could move more freely to conduct strikes or move troops, their missiles could fly on more expedient and direct routes and aircraft can play a more central role in attacking troops during counteroffensives, according to the documents. Serhiy Morgunov, Washington Post, 9 Apr. 2023 Under Mason, the Academy has become much more responsive to the music community’s wishes and concerns, and certainly has done so in a more expedient fashion than previous administrations — as exemplified by the modification of a decision made just four weeks ago. Thania Garcia, Variety, 6 Apr. 2023 Please trust that the Board of Governors will conduct this process in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy. Vulture, 1 Apr. 2022
This memory of Latin America’s victimhood remains politically salient and expedient; in 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador demanded that Spain apologize for its conquests and the atrocities committed by the conquistadors. Foreign Affairs, 6 Sep. 2022 In a swath of academia, the pandemic expedient of dropping the tests has seamlessly transitioned to a permanent change. Rich Lowry, National Review, 2 May 2023 There are also ethical concerns regarding the fact that proof of vaccination may exacerbate existing global inequities, creating a tiered system of travel privileges which discriminates against those in low and middle income countries without expedient access to vaccines. Joshua Cohen, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2021 The new expedient is going to be simply dumping many of them on the streets. The Editors, National Review, 11 May 2023 This was expedient, but also seemed to correspond to a genuine sense that the theatrics had started to overwhelm his work. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023 This is a model that is very popular and considered expedient. Ramesh Shurma, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 When expedient, whole tribes were welcomed into the empire and given some sort of legal status. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, 9 June 2020 At first this was just expedient. Scott Gilbertson, WIRED, 28 Mar. 2023 See More

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 4 Oct. 2023.

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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