AskDefine | Define Machiavellian

Dictionary Definition

Machiavellian adj : of or relating to Machiavelli or the principles of conduct he recommended; "Machiavellian thinking"

User Contributed Dictionary



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.


  1. Attempting to achieve what one wants by cunning, scheming and unscrupulous methods.
    Iago is the Machiavellian antagonist in William Shakespeare's play, Othello.



Extensive Definition

This article is about the psychology term. For the political philosophy, see Niccolò Machiavelli.
Machiavellianism is the term that some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person's tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. The concept is named after Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote Il Principe (The Prince). In the 1960s Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis developed a test for measuring a person's level of Machiavellianism. This eventually became the MACH-IV test, a twenty-statement personality survey that is now the standard self-assessment tool of Machiavellianism. People scoring above 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered high Machs; that is, they endorsed statements such as, "Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so," (No. 1) but not ones like, "Most people are basically good and kind" (No. 4). People scoring below 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered low Machs; they tend to believe, "There is no excuse for lying to someone else," (No. 7) and, "Most people who get ahead in the world lead clean, moral lives" (No. 11). In a series of studies undertaken by Christie and Geis and Geis's graduate assistant David Berger, the notion of machiavellianism was experimentally verified.

High Machs

High Machs tend to take a more detached, calculating approach in their interaction with other people. In terms of Big Five personality traits, Machiavellians tend to be low on agreeableness and high in conscientiousness.
Scholars and researchers have attempted to find a correlation between Machiavellianism and narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. It could be less view as Machiavelli did, and simply believe that while right and wrong have reality (at least to most people), that it is impractical to be ethical all the time, and that perhaps there is a difference between outright deception or exploitation, and subtle spins on the take consequences very seriously, and when dedicated to a course of action which may backfire, it is usually because the potential consequences have been weighed quite carefully and the High Mach is prepared to be responsible if blame cannot be deflected sufficiently.

Low Machs

Low Machs tend to take a more personal, empathic approach in their interaction with other people. They tend to be more trusting of others and more honest. They believe humans are essentially good natured. At the extreme, low Machs tend to be passive, submissive, highly agreeable, dependent and socially inept; in contrast with those who are more Machiavellian, they also tend to believe that everyone has a good and bad side.


External links

Machiavellian in Czech: Machiavellismus
Machiavellian in German: Machiavellismus
Machiavellian in Estonian: Makjavellism
Machiavellian in Spanish: Maquiavelismo
Machiavellian in French: Machiavélisme
Machiavellian in Italian: Machiavellismo
Machiavellian in Dutch: Machiavellisme
Machiavellian in Japanese: マキャヴェリズム
Machiavellian in Polish: Makiawelizm (polityka)
Machiavellian in Slovak: Machiavelizmus
Machiavellian in Serbian: Макијавелизам
Machiavellian in Finnish: Machiavellismi

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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