from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

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

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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.
  • noun 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 Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

  • noun a follower of Machiavelli's principles
  • adjective of or relating to Machiavelli or the principles of conduct he recommended


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word Machiavellian.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 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