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or Machiavelian

[mak-ee-uh-vel-ee-uh n] /ˌmæk i əˈvɛl i ən/
of, like, or befitting Machiavelli.
being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli's The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described.
characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty:
He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.
a follower of the principles analyzed or described in The Prince, especially with reference to techniques of political manipulation.
Origin of Machiavellian
First recorded in 1560-70; Machiavelli + -an
Related forms
Machiavellianism, Machiavellism, noun
Machiavellianly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for machiavelian
Historical Examples
  • Divide et impera is the true machiavelian policy of all governments.

    Comic Arithmetic Anonymous
  • "You may trust to my sagacity for that," said the baron, with a truly machiavelian air.

    Pride Eugne Sue
  • He thought the question almost machiavelian in its adroitness.

    The Song of the Wolf

    Frank Mayer
  • Each accomplished his designs by machiavelian methods, and attained a brief exaltation.

    Vondel's Lucifer Joost van den Vondel
  • As if by divine revelation the situation lay bare before him,—the whole machiavelian scheme as conceived by Manuel.

    West Wind Drift George Barr McCutcheon
  • Is this a bona fide transaction, or is it a machiavelian attempt to inveigle the prelate into an imbroglio?

  • No child's play now—no diplomatic dissembling—no sword thrusts intended to be parried, no machiavelian hits nor disguises.

  • The truck went on, while zestful, machiavelian plans took effect.

    The Pirates of Ersatz Murray Leinster
  • "I fully anticipate the most machiavelian system of ruse and deep combination," said Rodolph, smiling.

British Dictionary definitions for machiavelian


adjective (sometimes not capital)
of or relating to the alleged political principles of Machiavelli; cunning, amoral, and opportunist
a cunning, amoral, and opportunist person, esp a politician
Derived Forms
Machiavellianism, Machiavellism, noun
Machiavellist, adjective, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for machiavelian



"cunning, deceitful, unscrupulous," 1570s, from Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Florentine statesman and author of "Del Principe," a work advising rulers to place advantage above morality. A word of abuse in English well before his works were translated ("The Discourses" 1636, "The Prince" 1640), in part because his books were Indexed by the Church, in part because of French attacks on him (e.g. Gentillet's, translated into English 1602).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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