• Machiavellian •
mah-kee-ê-vel-i-ên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Using unscrupulous and exploitive means to achieve and justify an end.
Notes: It is easy to drop one of the two back-to-back vowels in the syllable sequence [kee-ê], underlined in the Pronunciation. Be careful not to reduce this sequence to a simple [kê]. When we allow nothing to stand in the way of achieving our goal, we become Machiavellianists because of our Machiavellianism. If you need to drop a syllable in these words, you may: Machiavellist and Machiavellism work just as well. Even though this word has clearly become a common adjective, we continue to capitalize it since most of those who use it know its eponym.
In Play: The smile of Machiavelli (see the picture here) today lingers over more corporate board rooms than monarchic thrones: "The Machiavellian tactics of Burnham Goode took him to the top of the company, but they created so many enemies in his wake that his tenure in office was short." You will, though, meet Machiavellian folks in all walks of life: "Melvin resorted to several Machiavellian means of getting into Atlanta Braves games, including picking the pockets of legitimate ticket-holders."
Word History: Today's Good Word is based on the surname of Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli (1469-1527), an Italian political philosopher who argued for expediency above morality. In his book, The Prince (1515), a handbook for political leaders of his time, Machiavelli argued that a good prince does not wince at resorting to cruelty or even to war if he deems it necessary. He asserted that morality must bend when in conflict with political goals and, in fact, showed how religion may be used to cloak questionable policies. Many of his principles still appear in textbooks on leadership and have been widely applied outside the political arena. (Great thanks to our favorite Florida photographer, Suzanne Williams, who didn't have to resort to any Machiavellian measures in suggesting today's Good Word.)