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ex·​pe·​di·​ent ik-ˈspē-dē-ənt How to pronounce expedient (audio)
: suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance
: characterized by concern with what is opportune
especially : governed by self-interest
expediently adverb


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ex·​pe·​di·​ent ik-ˈspē-dē-ənt How to pronounce expedient (audio)
: something done or used to achieve a particular end usually quickly or temporarily : an expedient action or solution
Choose the Right Synonym for expedient


expedient, politic, advisable mean dictated by practical or prudent motives.

expedient usually implies what is immediately advantageous without regard for ethics or consistent principles.

a politically expedient decision

politic stresses judiciousness and tactical value but usually implies some lack of candor or sincerity.

a politic show of interest

advisable applies to what is practical, prudent, or advantageous but lacks the derogatory implication of expedient and politic.

sometimes it's advisable to say nothing


resource, resort, expedient, shift, makeshift, stopgap mean something one turns to in the absence of the usual means or source of supply.

resource and resort apply to anything one falls back upon.

exhausted all of their resources
a last resort

expedient may apply to any device or contrivance used when the usual one is not at hand or not possible.

a flimsy expedient

shift implies a tentative or temporary imperfect expedient.

desperate shifts to stave off foreclosure

makeshift implies an inferior expedient adopted because of urgent need or allowed through indifference.

old equipment employed as a makeshift

stopgap applies to something used temporarily as an emergency measure.

a new law intended only as a stopgap

Example Sentences

Adjective Marley found it expedient to maintain social relationships with gunmen and politicans from both political parties. Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone, 24 Feb. 1994 The marble floor … gave the hall the aspect of a cathedral, and the walls were decorated with aphorisms such as Cicero's THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE IS THE HIGHEST LAW, a phrase he found curiously—or at least potentially—expedient in what was certainly designed as a temple to the idea of law. Tom Clancy, Patriot Games, 1987 Under political pressure and at the urging of Jefferson, Madison finally (but grudgingly) admitted that a bill of rights might help, over time, to instill in the people a greater respect for "the fundamental maxims of free government." But even as he was shepherding the first amendments through Congress, in 1789, he privately described them (amazingly enough) as a "nauseous project," required only for expedient reasons of politics. Jack N. Rakove, Atlantic, December 1986 They found it expedient to negotiate with the terrorists. Do the right thing, not the expedient thing. Noun In 1882, racing to meet the deadline on Life on the Mississippi, he [Mark Twain] boasted to W. D. Howells that he had managed to churn out 9,500 words in a day, having resorted to the old hack's expedient of copying out large chunks from other people's books … Jonathan Raban, Times Literary Supplement, 21–27 Sept. 1990 The Viet Cong taught the peasants to dig cave shelters under the sleeping platforms rural Vietnamese cover with mats of woven straw and use as beds. This expedient gave the peasants a handy shelter right inside the house, unless that house happened to be one of those set afire by the napalm or the white phosphorus, called Willy Peter in U.S. military idiom. Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988 For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience," 1849 For it is plain that every word we speak is in some degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express the particular business they are to discourse on. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726 The government chose short-term expedients instead of a real economic policy. We can solve this problem by the simple expedient of taking out another loan. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Torkelson framed the board's decision at the time as a financially expedient investment while simultaneously announcing IDEA's decision to drop the plan. Dan Carson, Chron, 17 Aug. 2022 Yet the belief is pervasive, and politically expedient. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 21 June 2022 Speaking to as many consumers as possible at once might seem expedient, but there are potential hazards to be aware of when attempting to minimize the fallout of a narrative that has grown beyond the company’s control via these channels. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Strategists saw the move as a politically expedient way to align with Mr. Musk. New York Times, 8 June 2022 Even Italy's populist political parties no longer believe a rapprochement with Moscow is possible or politically expedient. Daniel R. Depetris, The Week, 2 May 2022 The letter says the process will be conducted in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy. Chloe Melas, CNN, 30 Mar. 2022 In this region, burying the past has always been politically expedient, as has been digging it out and manipulating it as convenient. Cristina Florea, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 Please trust that the Board of Governors will conduct this process in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 29 Mar. 2022
And for a contrasting note of expedient cynicism, there is the old pro Stephen Schellhardt as the amoral Max Detweiler. Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 24 Nov. 2022 Our first drive of the 469-hp Taycan Cross Turismo 4 showed off its expedient acceleration, agile handling, and reassuring brakes. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, 17 Nov. 2022 The expedient relations between empathy and sadism, the possibility that the two words might name the same feeling, is a large theme in the book. Hannah Gold, Harper’s Magazine , 26 Oct. 2022 When the President abandoned a prior position for a more expedient one, his supporters tended to downplay the switch as a political necessity required to trick someone else, and not something that revealed his lack of conviction. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, 29 Sep. 2022 In the lower Mississippi Valley, the petites nations made themselves into forceful regional powers through strategic mobility, calculated violence, and expedient alliances, keeping just ahead of the imperial gaze of the surrounding colonial empires. Pekka Hämäläinen, Time, 10 Oct. 2022 When politically expedient, Mr. Hatch edged toward the center. New York Times, 23 Apr. 2022 There is a private dock for folks arriving via boat, while visitors who prefer a more dramatic—and expedient—arrival can helicopter in thanks to the helipad at the nearby Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. David Kaufman, Robb Report, 17 Aug. 2022 The gist is that a longer set of instructions or code might ultimately be faster or more expedient than a shorter set. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 7 July 2022 See More

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

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin expedient-, expendiens, present participle of expedire to extricate, prepare, be useful, from ex- + ped-, pes foot — more at foot

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1630, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near expedient

Cite this Entry

“Expedient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expedient. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

expedient 1 of 2


ex·​pe·​di·​ent ik-ˈspēd-ē-ənt How to pronounce expedient (audio)
: suitable for bringing about a desired result often without regard to what is fair or right
expediently adverb


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: a means to accomplish an end
especially : one used in place of a better means that is not available

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