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

Buttigieg is a proficient musician, playing guitar and piano and, in 2013, performing with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Who Is Pete Buttigeig, the Gay Millennial Mayor the Democrats Didn't See Coming?," 1 Apr. 2019 Durant has proven to be one of the best defenders in the league, but Holiday's crafty handle and ability to finish with both hands makes him proficient enough to score against defenders with a size advantage over him. William Guillory,, "Jrue Holiday refusing to back down from matchup against Kevin Durant," 4 May 2018 These examples —based on data from last year — illustrate where the district is aiming: Just 9.6% of students enter and exit third grade as proficient readers. Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti aims big, says "Our kids can achieve at high levels"," 12 Feb. 2018 The candidate should be proficient in InDesign and Photoshop. Good Housekeeping, "Internships at," 28 June 2010 Only 22% of fourth-graders in Los Angeles scored proficient in math on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress compared to 31% in other large cities. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Unions in La-La Land," 14 Jan. 2019 Using a fading support technique, teachers follow behind in their cars and ride with the young adults on regular bus service or VIAtrans, pulling back as trainees become more proficient. Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News, "Young San Antonians find independence with public transportation," 2 Apr. 2018 As with other acquired skills, the way to become proficient is to practice daily. David Tanis, New York Times, "Bouncy Noodles, Bright Greens, Quick Broth: A Perfect Bowl," 16 Mar. 2018 The latest scores on New York’s state tests show only 46.7% of the city’s third through eighth graders proficient in English and 42.7% in math, with the number dropping to 34% and 25.4% respectively for black students. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "De Blasio Sees Too Many Asians," 17 Dec. 2018

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

9 May 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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