effective

1 of 2

adjective

ef·​fec·​tive i-ˈfek-tiv How to pronounce effective (audio)
e-,
ē-,
ə-
1
a
: producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect
an effective policy
b
: impressive, striking
a gold lamé fabric studded with effective … precious stones Stanley Marcus
2
: being in effect : operative
the tax becomes effective next year
3
: actual
the need to increase effective demand for goods
4
: ready for service or action
effective manpower
5
of a rate of interest : equal to the rate of simple interest that yields the same amount when the interest is paid once at the end of the interest period as a quoted rate of interest does when calculated at compound interest over the same period compare nominal sense 4
effectiveness noun
effectivity noun

effective

2 of 2

noun

: one that is effective (see effective entry 1)
especially : a soldier equipped for duty

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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.

Choose the Right Synonym for effective

effective, effectual, efficient, efficacious mean producing or capable of producing a result.

effective stresses the actual production of or the power to produce an effect.

an effective rebuttal

effectual suggests the accomplishment of a desired result especially as viewed after the fact.

the measures to stop the pilfering proved effectual

efficient suggests an acting or a potential for action or use in such a way as to avoid loss or waste of energy in effecting, producing, or functioning.

an efficient small car

efficacious suggests possession of a special quality or virtue that gives effective power.

a detergent that is efficacious in removing grease

Example Sentences

Adjective These commercials were extremely effective as marketing tools, but we now know that chocolate swimming pools and candy-coating showers play no part in the manufacture of real M&M's. Instead, the ellipsoid chocolate centers of plain M&M's are formed by machines. David Owen, Atlantic, October 1988 My feeling is that by waiting for the right moment to let rip, a film is infinitely more effective, especially with characters you have come to like. Clive Barker, in Cinefantastique, September 1987 But Tammy's most effective remedy for stress, both then and now, was the same as Imelda Marcos's: shopping up a storm. "It's kind of a hobby to help my nerves," she explained … Jean Seligman, Newsweek, 8 June 1987 It's a simple but effective technique. He gave an effective speech.
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The antiviral has already been shown to be effective in protecting against severe illness if used within five days of getting sick. Erika Edwards, NBC News, 25 Nov. 2022 The researchers conclude that the bivalent booster, which contains genetic material from both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron BA.4/5 variants, is effective in protecting people from severe COVID-19. Alice Park, Time, 23 Nov. 2022 Some options can be effective in the short term: for instance, paying for ecosystem services—government payments for farmers who use their lands to provide some ecological preservation—or carbon bonuses. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, 23 Nov. 2022 Both versions were equally effective in trapping insects and disrupting their mating, shown as a decline of the insects’ male population over time. WIRED, 23 Nov. 2022 The Fighting Irish offense is not very explosive but has been very effective in complimenting a solid Irish defense during their five-game winning streak. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 23 Nov. 2022 Both plants were highly effective in killing or inhibiting the effects of the protozoa and nematodes, according to the study. Hafsa Khalil, CNN, 23 Nov. 2022 Spa services like massages have long been established as effective in lowering cortisol while boosting serotonin levels, supercharging one's ability to regulate feelings of anxiety or sadness. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, 21 Nov. 2022 But on harder surfaces, such as glass or metal, scraping is very effective. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, 21 Nov. 2022
Noun
In May Bloomberg reported that Nonkululeko Nyembezi had been appointed as Chairman-designate effective. Jasmine Browley, Essence, 11 Aug. 2022 The disarray resulted in Stephen Gange, Johns Hopkins University professor and executive vice provost for academic affairs, being named interim executive director of the program on Thursday effective immediately. Sabrina Leboeuf, Baltimore Sun, 5 July 2022 In a major coup for the Big Ten Conference, both the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC SC +2.7%) are jumping from the Pac 12 Conference to Big Ten effective with the 2024 season. Derek Baine, Forbes, 1 July 2022 Laurent Morali, president of Kushner Cos., will take over as chief executive effective immediately, the firm said. Peter Grant, WSJ, 19 Oct. 2021 California’s coronavirus dashboard showed an R-effective of 0.81 for San Francisco as of Wednesday. Kellie Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 June 2021 AstraZeneca is working with the Serum Institute, as is Novavax, whose vaccine looks to be ninety-six-per-cent effective. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, 3 June 2021 One way is through applied topical insect repellent, the most (and arguably only) effective of which contain DEET. Larry Olmsted, Forbes, 28 Apr. 2021 But even for a team loaded at the position, the effective of Oregon’s ground game, especially in the second half, in its first two games is outlandish. oregonlive, 18 Nov. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'effective.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English effectif, borrowed from Late Latin effectīvus "producing a result, efficient," going back to Latin, "involving an end product," from effectus, past participle of efficere "to make, bring about, produce, carry out" + -īvus -ive — more at effect entry 1

Noun

derivative of effective entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1708, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of effective was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near effective

Cite this Entry

“Effective.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effective. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

effective

adjective

ef·​fec·​tive
i-ˈfek-tiv
1
a
: producing or able to produce a desired effect
effective treatment of a disease
b
: impressive, striking
an effective performance
2
: being in actual operation
the law becomes effective next year
effectively adverb
effectiveness noun

Medical Definition

effective

adjective

ef·​fec·​tive i-ˈfek-tiv How to pronounce effective (audio)
: producing a decided, decisive, claimed, or desired effect
a drug judged effective by an evaluating panel
effectively adverb
effectiveness noun

Legal Definition

effective

adjective

ef·​fec·​tive
1
: producing a desired effect
an effective revocation of the contract
2
: capable of bringing about an effect
effective assistance of counsel
see also ineffective assistance of counsel
3
: being in effect
4
of a rate of interest : equal to the rate of simple interest that yields the same amount when the rate is paid once at the end of the interest period as a quoted rate of interest does when calculated at compound interest over the same period compare nominal
effectiveness noun

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