mach·​i·​na·​tion ˌma-kə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce machination (audio)
: an act of machinating
: a scheming or crafty action or artful design intended to accomplish some usually evil end
backstage machinations … that have dominated the film industry Peter Bogdanovich
Choose the Right Synonym for machination

plot, intrigue, machination, conspiracy, cabal mean a plan secretly devised to accomplish an evil or treacherous end.

plot implies careful foresight in planning a complex scheme.

an assassination plot

intrigue suggests secret underhanded maneuvering in an atmosphere of duplicity.

backstairs intrigue

machination implies a contriving of annoyances, injuries, or evils by indirect means.

the machinations of a party boss

conspiracy implies a secret agreement among several people usually involving treason or great treachery.

a conspiracy to fix prices

cabal typically applies to political intrigue involving persons of some eminence.

a cabal among powerful senators

Example Sentences

incredibly complicated machinations to assassinate the president that inevitably failed
Recent Examples on the Web Every Miller-era machination mentioned above was challenged in the courts, and several failed. Felipe De La Hoz, The New Republic, 22 Aug. 2022 And if the brand-new mother doesn’t want to participate in the machination? Tomris Laffly, Variety, 3 Mar. 2022 Through some combination of machination, intrigue, and poor decision making, the famed gig initially went to Mike Richards, the white male Jeopardy! Cynthia Greenlee, Harper's BAZAAR, 17 Sep. 2021 But like so much else in this series so far, this all reads as too try-hard to believe — a plot machination set in place from above that isn’t plausibly set in motion by the characters down on the ground. Jessica Goldstein, Vulture, 22 July 2021 The whole machination is pretty much based on a semblance of supply and demand. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 20 Mar. 2021 Opening night also lacked the sense of danger that should hang over every machination. Matthew J. Palm,, 7 Nov. 2020 The legal filing is the latest machination that may affect absentee voting this year, a process more than 3 million Michiganders are expected to use to cast their ballots this fall. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, 25 Sep. 2020 After weeks of hand wringing, private machination and public dysfunction, the league is ready to power its biggest revenue driver back up again. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 17 Sep. 2020 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of machination was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near machination

Cite this Entry

“Machination.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

More from Merriam-Webster on machination

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.