SKIP TO CONTENT

Machiavellian

Someone Machiavellian is sneaky, cunning, and lacking a moral code. The word comes from the Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote the political treatise The Prince in the 1500s, that encourages “the end justifies the means” behavior, especially among politicians.

Machiavellian describes fans of Machiavelli, the Renaissance philosopher who wrote things like “It is much safer to be feared than loved” and “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” Modern psychiatrists even use it to describe a kind of personality disorder, a cold selfishness. When Machiavelli's first works were published, they were seen by some to be dangerous and amoral, and the word Machiavellian was coined.

Definitions of Machiavellian
  1. adjective
    of or relating to Machiavelli or the principles of conduct he recommended
    Machiavellian thinking”
  2. noun
    a follower of Machiavelli's principles
    see moresee less
    type of:
    follower
    a person who accepts the leadership of another
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week