proficient

adjective
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

Only about 10% of students from low-income families are proficient in both English and math. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, "LAUSD superintendent touts increases in student achievement," 15 Aug. 2019 All told, 34 percent of Rhode Island students were considered proficient in English language arts, the same as Fall River. Dan Mcgowan, BostonGlobe.com, "It’s not just Providence. Communities across R.I. grapple with underperforming schools.," 7 Aug. 2019 In 2018, less than half of the students in 81 of Alabama's 137 school districts were proficient in third-grade reading on the state's annual test. al, "Alabama first-graders head toward new reading hurdle," 6 Aug. 2019 Nationwide, in 2017 only 13 percent of black eighth-graders were proficient in mathematics, while more than half did not achieve the basic skill level. Robert Cherry, National Review, "The Case for More Occupational Training," 25 July 2019 As a district, 90 percent of Providence students aren’t proficient in math. Dan Mcgowan, BostonGlobe.com, "Role of charters unclear as R.I. mulls intervention in Providence schools," 11 July 2019 The agency continues to place children in homes where their parents’ language isn’t spoken and to assign caseworkers who don’t speak Spanish to parents who aren’t proficient in English. Melissa Sanchez, ProPublica, "For generations, Illinois’ child welfare agency has failed to adequately serve Spanish-speaking families with children in its care.," 20 June 2019 More than 60 percent of Ohio fourth graders were not proficient in reading. Rachel Berry, Cincinnati.com, "Study: Life is improving for Ohio children, but not all of them," 19 June 2019 Alabama ranks 38th in education, but nearly 80 percent of Alabama eighth-graders aren’t proficient in math. Anna Claire Vollers | Avollers@al.com, al.com, "Despite improvement, Alabama drops in 2019 Kids Count ranking," 17 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

29 Aug 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

proficient

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of proficient

: good at doing something

proficient

adjective
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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