Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of or relating to Machiavelli or Machiavellianism.
  • adj. Suggestive of or characterized by expediency, deceit, and cunning.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Attempting to achieve their goals by cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous methods.
  • adj. Related to the philosophical system of Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • n. A ruthless schemer.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to Niccolo Machiavelli (also called in English Machiavel) (1469–1527), an illustrious Italian patriot and writer, secretary of state and many times ambassador of the republic of Florence; conforming to the principles imputed to Machiavelli (see II.); hence, destitute of political morality; cunning in political management; habitually using duplicity and bad faith; astutely crafty.
  • n. One who adopts the principles expounded by Machiavelli in his work entitled “The Prince,” a treatise on government in which political morality is disregarded and tyrannical methods of rule are inculcated.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a follower of Machiavelli's principles
  • adj. of or relating to Machiavelli or the principles of conduct he recommended

Etymologies

From the name of the Italian statesman and writer Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), whose work The Prince (1532) advises that acquiring and exercising power may require unethical methods. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The term "Machiavellian" emerged in the 16th century to describe a devious, cruel tyrant, who uses any means to achieve his goals.

    Reading Machiavelli's 'The Prince'

  • Now that's what I call a Machiavellian bus; one can only think of the state of Massachusetts 'public transport.

    Cokemachineglow.com

  • Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran points out that humans are sometimes called the "Machiavellian primate" because of our ability to "read minds" in order to predict other peoples' behaviour and then outsmart them.

    John Stanley: Compassion And The Shadow

  • He's short term Machiavellian tactician and a rubbish one to boot, especially when the spotlight is on him and he is not operating from the shadows as he had done until last June.

    He really is awful isn't he?

  • This couldn't be because Brown and his handlers are depsrate to destroy a belief that in the end he is a short term Machiavellian tactictian?

    Brown says he's not been 'pushed about'

  • And there's the word Machiavellian: a single word that describes the political principles and methods advocated by Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine Statesman, in 1517.

    One Word to Describe Bush and Bush as a Vocabulary Word

  • Jesuits begun to use the word Machiavellian in the sense that I have described, meaning someone unreliable, someone who always wears a mask, someone who is ready to deceive, who is always keen, always ready and prepared to put his interest before any other moral consideration.

    Niccolo's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli

  • I don't think that expertise in Machiavellian politics is such a bad idea.

    Woodstein U: Notes on the Mass Production and Questionable Education of Journalists

  • V. S. Ramachandran points out that humans are sometimes called the "Machiavellian primate" because of our ability to "read minds" in order to predict other peoples' behaviour and then outsmart them.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • Times profile called him "vindictive" and "Machiavellian"--Daley has been described throughout his career as the kind of focused, get-things-done, no-drama manager that Obama likes to rely on.

    TIME.com: Top Stories

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  • He ends by making machiavellian efforts to avoid kissing the every day sharer of his meals, books, bath towels, pocketbook, relatives, ambitions, secrets, malaises and business: a proceeding about as romantic as having his boots blacked.

    H. L. Mencken, In Defense of Women

    July 24, 2011