efficient

adjective
ef·​fi·​cient | \ i-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce efficient (audio) \

Definition of efficient

1 : productive of desired effects especially : capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials) an efficient worker efficient machinery
2 : being or involving the immediate agent in producing an effect the efficient action of heat in changing water to steam

Choose the Right Synonym for efficient

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

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 efficient in a Sentence

Like a page-turner of a novel, [Nomar] Garciaparra keeps you eager to see what comes next, especially this season, when he will have the most efficient RBI machine in baseball, free-agent signee Manny Ramirez, riding shotgun with him. — Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 5 Mar. 2001 Short and muscular, he is as efficient as a surgeon, cracking eggs with one hand and tossing the shells into the basket under the counter behind him without looking, flipping bread into the slots of a row of toasters, and literally throwing "to go" orders ten feet down the counter to the guy manning the cash register. — Paul Baumann, Commonweal, 18 July 1997 Wilde was wearing two emeralds,  … one on the little finger of each hand. That on the left was the efficient cause of all joys, that on the right of misfortunes. Asked why he continued to wear the one on the right, Wilde said, "One needs misfortunes to live happily." — Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, (1984) 1988 Originally designed for the preparation of desserts, the woks eventually proved their versatility as efficient vessels for stir-frying, deep-frying, and the reduction of liquids. — Kemp Miles Minifie, Gourmet, November 1988 that manual lawn mower is not a very efficient tool for doing a huge yard
Recent Examples on the Web The Sparrows, by contrast, are efficient, well-trained, and merciless. Christian Holub, EW.com, 13 May 2022 Coleman said a chief priority of his as attorney general would be to establish more cooperation among law enforcement agencies to combat hyper-efficient drug trafficking organizations and other threats. Morgan Watkins, The Courier-Journal, 12 May 2022 While a drastic increase in battery life isn’t likely, or even necessary, a report from earlier in the year suggests that 5G radio frequency (RF) chips in the iPhone 14 will be more power efficient. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 12 May 2022 Rupert Russell told me, has created a more abstract relationship between commodity prices and underlying supply and demand dynamics, which have never been the perfectly efficient forces economists tend to paint them as. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 12 May 2022 Madhavan portrays Indian scientist Nambi Narayanan, a former Indian Space Research Organization scientist and aerospace engineer known for developing efficient liquid fuel engines and who became embroiled in a spy scandal. Manori Ravindran, Variety, 11 May 2022 First introduced in 1963, the self-cleaning oven is convenient and energy efficient. Terry Baddoo, USA TODAY, 11 May 2022 Used cooking oil, such as the greasy goodness coming from fryers at the DFW McDonald's restaurants, is being repurposed and converted to fuel in a surprisingly efficient manner, airport officials said. David K. Li, NBC News, 11 May 2022 The super efficient nesting design means a small footprint on my shelves, which simply means more bowls to buy and fill my cabinets with. Kendra Vaculin, Bon Appétit, 10 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of efficient

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for efficient

Middle English, "active, immediate (of a cause)," borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin efficient-, efficiens "producing or giving rise to something, immediate (of a cause), active," from present participle of efficere "to make, bring about, produce, carry out" — more at effect entry 1

Learn More About efficient

Time Traveler for efficient

Time Traveler

The first known use of efficient was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near efficient

efficiency expert

efficient

efficient cause

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for efficient

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Efficient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/efficient. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for efficient

efficient

adjective
ef·​fi·​cient | \ i-ˈfi-shənt How to pronounce efficient (audio) \

Kids Definition of efficient

: capable of bringing about a desired result with little waste (as of time or energy) an efficient worker

Other Words from efficient

efficiently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on efficient

Nglish: Translation of efficient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of efficient for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!