Printable Version
Pronunciation: mæ-kê-ney-shên or mæ-shê-ney-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A devious scheme, a ploy, a trick.

Notes: The CH in today's word tends to be pronounced with the Greek [k] in Britain, but with the French [sh] in the US. The [k] is the older, more traditional pronunciation. Machination is the process noun from the verb machinate. A person who plots and schemes is a machinator. The stem of all members of this family reflects the same dual pronunciation found in the stem of today's word.

In Play: Even though the word contains machine, machinations are not at all machine-like, but are most human: "Major Miner manipulated his promotion by means of Byzantine machinations behind the scenes despite little combat experience." The capital of a country is usually the capital of machinations, since politics is probably impossible without intrigue and scheming.

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Latin machinatio(n) "mechanism, contrivance" from the verb machinare "to design, contrive," a verb based on the noun machina "device". Romans borrowed this word from Greek makhana, a dialectal variant of mekhane "machine". You are right to see an ancestor of our mechanics and mechanism in the Greek word. The original root, PIE magh- "be able, have the power to", also provided Russian moch' "can" (mogu "I can") and moshch' "power, might". It also ended up in Old English magan, the forerunner of today's auxiliary verb may, and both the auxiliary verb and noun might. Finally, the PIE root came to be in magic and magus, one of the Three Magi (priests) of the New Testament.

Dr. Goodword,

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