pro·​fi·​cient | \ prə-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce proficient (audio) \

Definition of proficient

: well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge

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Other Words from proficient

proficient noun
proficiently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for proficient

proficient, adept, skilled, skillful, expert mean having great knowledge and experience in a trade or profession. proficient implies a thorough competence derived from training and practice. proficient in translating foreign languages adept implies special aptitude as well as proficiency. adept at doing long division skilled stresses mastery of technique. a skilled surgeon skillful implies individual dexterity in execution or performance. skillful drivers expert implies extraordinary proficiency and often connotes knowledge as well as technical skill. expert in the evaluation of wines

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 proficient in a Sentence

With this system, a large pool of teachers are asked to identify students they believe are proficient in a given subject; those students are then tested, and their grades stand as the proficiency range. — Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 15 Sept. 2003 Dr. Pascual-Leone recruited 15 proficient Braille readers and wired them up so he could measure their somatosensory cortex—the part of the brain that registers and processes the sense of touch. — Sharon Begley, Wall Street Journal, 11 Oct. 2002 Become proficient at lag putting and you may make a few. — Dave Pelz, Golf Magazine, July 1996 He has become very proficient at computer programming. She is proficient in two foreign languages.
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Recent Examples on the Web Once a team was assembled that could specialize in various areas, the company became much more proficient and versatile in their work. Neal Taparia, Forbes, 4 June 2021 On national tests, 85% of eighth-graders score below proficient in U.S. history, as do about 75% in geography and civics. Natalie Wexler, Forbes, 5 July 2021 The majority have health insurance, had a preventive care visit in the past year, live above the poverty line, and are proficient in English. NBC News, 28 June 2021 In the 2017-18 school year, only 23 percent of children across all grades were proficient in math. New York Times, 14 June 2021 Fluent in French and Haitian Creole and proficient in Spanish, Debrosse received her undergraduate degree from the City College of the City University of New York and her law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. William Thornton |, al, 2 June 2021 Within the Asian American community, those who tend to vote at higher rates also tend to be more proficient in English, and have higher incomes and higher education, Ramakrishnan said. NBC News, 31 Mar. 2021 Long before the onset of COVID-19, more than 50% of ASD students were scoring below or far below proficient in key assessment areas year after year. Anchorage Daily News, 14 Mar. 2021 Only 22% of high-school seniors were proficient in science on the 2019 Nation's Report Card. Star Tribune, 9 June 2021

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

circa 1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for proficient

Latin proficient-, proficiens, present participle of proficere to go forward, accomplish, from pro- forward + facere to make — more at pro-, do

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Time Traveler for proficient

Time Traveler

The first known use of proficient was circa 1590

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Last Updated

20 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Proficient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for proficient



English Language Learners Definition of proficient

: good at doing something


pro·​fi·​cient | \ prə-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce proficient (audio) \

Kids Definition of proficient

: very good at doing something a proficient reader

Other Words from proficient

proficiently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on proficient

Nglish: Translation of proficient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proficient for Arabic Speakers


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