in·​ef·​fi·​cient | \ˌi-nə-ˈfi-shənt \

Definition of inefficient 

: not efficient: such as

a : not producing the effect intended or desired

b : wasteful of time or energy inefficient operating procedures

c : incapable, incompetent an inefficient worker

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Other Words from inefficient

inefficient noun
inefficiently adverb

Examples of inefficient in a Sentence

The delivery system was very inefficient. an inefficient use of fuel

Recent Examples on the Web

Unfortunately, the techniques that allow sequencing from extremely small samples like this are relatively inefficient. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Scientists, ethicists slam decisions behind gene-edited twins," 30 Nov. 2018 What the country really needs is robust competition in pricing and innovation, but not so many players that customers are forced to pay for redundant cell towers and inefficient spectrum use. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Why the AT&T Case Suddenly Matters," 11 May 2018 First, democracy is to some extent inherently inefficient. James Stavridis, Time, "Democracy Isn't Perfect, But It Will Still Prevail," 12 July 2018 One cynical academic averred that politicians will always opt for showy handouts rather than unsexy long-term solutions, however inefficient that may be. The Economist, "Indian states are testing a new way of setting development priorities," 14 June 2018 But only some of their energy is channeled into such radiation, making supernovae somewhat inefficient killers. Adam Mann, Science | AAAS, "Dark energy’s weakness may be why supernovae didn’t kill us all," 4 May 2018 There’s one big change from then, though: Point guard Jaylen Fisher is now out because of injury, which has left the more inefficient Robinson to take over point-guard duties. Jesse Newell, kansascity, "Quick scout: It’s logic vs. emotion with this KU-TCU pick," 6 Feb. 2018 Problems created by inefficient work processes, poor interdepartmental coordination and annoying cell phone interruptions may be quite obvious to employees. Marie G. Mcintyre, The Seattle Times, "Struggling in the chaotic, stressful health-care workplace," 21 Nov. 2018 But for now, humans will be necessary to integrate this knowledge into useful chemistry, recognizing when deploying any new or efficient reactions may make a previously inefficient process or unobtainable product easier to work with. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "AI plus a chemistry robot finds all the reactions that will work," 18 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inefficient.' 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 inefficient

1750, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

15 Dec 2018

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The first known use of inefficient was in 1750

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More Definitions for inefficient



English Language Learners Definition of inefficient

: not capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy : not efficient


in·​ef·​fi·​cient | \ˌi-nə-ˈfi-shənt \

Kids Definition of inefficient

1 : not effective : ineffectual an inefficient repair

2 : not capable of bringing about a desired result with little waste inefficient workers

Other Words from inefficient

inefficiently adverb

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Comments on inefficient

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