Inquiring Minds: What is the origin of the word ‘machinations?’

Q. What is the origin of the word “machinations”? Does it come from the name Machiavelli? Also, how do you pronounce it?

A. “Machinations” means “intrigues, plots, or schemes” and it’s almost always used in a negative sense. The Italian political writer, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), author of “The Prince,” may have been one of the great machinators of history, but he probably didn’t lend his name to this word. According to scholars, the word comes from the Latin word machina meaning “contrivance, device, stratagem or trick.” In fact, our modern word “machination” probably stems from the same root that gives us the word “machine.” Before the Industrial Age narrowed its meaning to a mechanical device, “machine” was sometimes used as a verb meaning, “to contrive or plot.” 

As for pronunciation, you can say the first syllable as “mack”  (as in Machiavelli) or  “mash” (as in machine); either is correct. 

(Oxford English Dictionary and online resources.)


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