or Mach·i·a·vel·i·an

[mak-ee-uh-vel-ee-uh n]


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 formsMach·i·a·vel·li·an·ism, Mach·i·a·vel·lism, nounMach·i·a·vel·li·an·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for machiavelian

Historical Examples of machiavelian

  • Divide et impera is the true Machiavelian policy of all governments.

  • "You may trust to my sagacity for that," said the baron, with a truly Machiavelian air.


    Eugne Sue

  • He thought the question almost Machiavelian in its adroitness.

  • 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

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 FormsMachiavellianism or Machiavellism, nounMachiavellist, 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

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