Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was born in Florence, Italy, to a distinguished family. He held various posts in the Florentine government and was staunchly opposed to the return of the Medici family to power. When the Medicis resumed their political position, they tortured and imprisoned him. Although they later pardoned him, his public life was ended.
   Machiavelli then took up his pen and wrote several excellently styled plays and a short novel, but the treatise The Prince has given him the label "the founder of political science." The thesis he propounded was that political subjects, although bound by traditional moral codes, owe allegiance to, and had to respect and accept any obligations imposed upon them by, their rulers; rulers rightfully could maintain their power by any means whatsoever. Bad faith and deception practiced by rulers were not to be questioned. Morally Machiavelli was completely reprehensible, having no sensitivity to ethical considerations. For example, he said, "To be feared gives more security than to be loved"; "A prudent ruler cannot and should not observe faith when such observance is to his disadvantage." He emerged from his cocoon when Pope Leo X commissioned him to write a report on the reform of Florence. But he never again was an important political figure.
   His name has given the English language Machiavellian, which means characterized by political intrigue, duplicity, unscrupulousness, and brilliant dissembling.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

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  • Machiavellian — (adj.) cunning, deceitful, unscrupulous, 1570s, from Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 1527), Florentine statesman and author of Del Principe, a work advising rulers to place advantage above morality. A word of abuse in English well before his works were …   Etymology dictionary

  • Machiavellian — a noun and adjective denoting a politically devious schemer, is spelt with a capital initial letter and two ls …   Modern English usage

  • Machiavellian — [adj] scheming artful, astute, calculating, conniving, contriving, crafty, cunning, deceitful, devious, expedient, opportunist, plotting, shrewd, sly, underhanded, unscrupulous, wily; concepts 401,545 …   New thesaurus

  • Machiavellian — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous. ORIGIN from the name of the Italian statesman and writer Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 1527), whose work The Prince (1532) advises that the acquisition and use of power may necessitate unethical… …   English terms dictionary

  • Machiavellian — [mak΄ē ə vel′ē ən, mäk΄ē ə vel′ē ən; mak΄ē əvel′yən] adj. 1. of Machiavelli 2. of, like, or characterized by the political principles and methods of expediency, craftiness, and duplicity set forth in Machiavelli s book, The Prince; crafty,… …   English World dictionary

  • Machiavellian — [[t]mæ̱kiəve̱liən[/t]] ADJ GRADED: usu ADJ n (disapproval) If you describe someone as Machiavellian, you are critical of them because they often make clever and secret plans to achieve their aims and are not honest with people. ...Machiavellian… …   English dictionary

  • Machiavellian — 1. adjective /ˌmɒk.i.əˈvɛl.i.ən,ˌmæk.jəˈvɛl.i.ən,ˌmɑk.i.əˈvɛl.i.ən,ˌmæk.jəˈvɛl.i.ən/ a) Attempting to achieve their goals by cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous methods. is the Machiavellian antagonist in William Shakespeares play, . b) Related… …   Wiktionary

  • Machiavellian — Machiavelian Mach i*a*vel ian, Machiavellian Mach i*a*vel lian, a. [From Machiavel (also called Machiavelli), an Italian writer, secretary and historiographer to the republic of Florence.] Of or pertaining to Machiavelli, or to his supposed… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Machiavellian — Machiavelian Mach i*a*vel ian, Machiavellian Mach i*a*vel lian, n. One who adopts the principles of Machiavelli; a cunning and unprincipled politician. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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