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

At one of its elementary schools 80 percent of third graders were proficient in English and 76 percent were doing math at grade level, according to scores on the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) exam. Dan Mcgowan,, "Role of charters unclear as R.I. mulls intervention in Providence schools," 11 July 2019 While some of these will be distributed by bigger game publishers, the creativity is sometimes staggeringly proficient in its ingenuity — just as the artwork can be as touchingly moving as a fine museum painting. Washington Post, "Ten under-the-radar games at E3 2019 you need to get excited about right now," 14 June 2019 The more proficient a player becomes, the less glucose the brain consumes for energy to fuel cognition. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Study: Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind," 2 Nov. 2018 Gonez said, referring to a past federal law that said all students would have to be academically proficient by 2014. Sonali Kohli,, "L.A.'s school board president wants every district graduate to be eligible for a four-year public university by 2023," 7 June 2018 Though not quite as vocally proficient as parrots, walruses and seals can mimic novel sounds. Quanta Magazine, "The Beasts That Keep the Beat," 22 Mar. 2016 Only 31% of fourth-graders in California are proficient in math, compared with 40% nationwide. Allysia Finley, WSJ, "The Troubles Beneath the Surface of California’s Comeback," 28 June 2019 Only 14 percent of Providence students in grades three through eight were considered proficient in English language arts (ELA) on the 2018 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) exam, and 10% were doing math at grade level. Dan Mcgowan,, "A team of hardened school reviewers had never shed a tear. Then they saw the Providence schools," 25 June 2019 Here in Oakland, that would mean sending our kids to schools where, on average, just 21 percent of African American students can read at grade level, and 14 percent are proficient in math. Endia Cleveland, The Mercury News, "Opinion: Sanders, Bay Area progressives have lost their way on charter schools," 20 June 2019

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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Statistics for proficient

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for proficient

The first known use of proficient was circa 1590

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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

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Comments on proficient

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