effective, effectual, efficacious, efficient
1. All these words mean ‘having an effect’ of some kind, but with different applications and shades of meaning. Effective means ‘having a definite or desired effect’ that is actual rather than theoretical:

• The toothbrush is undoubtedly the most effective weapon in the fight against bacterial plaque —Daily Telegraph, 1971

• She is most effective as a live performer of her own material —New Yorker, 1975

• Referring fracture patients for a DXA scan has been effective in helping prevent further breaks —Scotsman, 2007.

Cost-effective means ‘productive in terms of cost’. Effectual means ‘capable of producing the required result or effect’, independent of a personal agent, and is often more theoretical than actual:

• The rich ought to have an effectual barrier in the constitution against being robbed, plundered, and murdered, as well as the poor —A. Arblaster, 1987

• The rim of my hat, while effectually shading my eyes, did not obstruct my vision —J. Davidson, 1991.

A person cannot be described as effectual although he or she can be described as ineffectual, i.e. ‘lacking the ability to produce results’:

• The Rangers' problems stemmed from the habit that…the team's general manager…had of hiring ineffectual cronies to coach the club —New York Times, 1979.

2. Efficacious applies only to things, and means ‘producing or sure to produce the required effect’:

• It is perhaps dubious to argue that a prayer or worship becomes more efficacious if more people join in —S. Lamont, 1989

• How can I persuade them, when they go to the bar, that a Perrier or a tonic water might be just as efficacious as alcoholic liquor? —S. J. Carne, 1990.

Efficient refers to a person's or thing's capacity to do work and produce results with minimum effort and cost:

• You police spies don't seem to be a very efficient bunch, letting an old man be drowned while you are supposed to be keeping a watch on him —G. Sims, 1973

• Older systems can be improved with modern, efficient components and controls can be added to improve fuel economy —Ideal Home, 1991.

In recent use, efficient is sometimes preceded by an attributive noun that defines the scope of the efficiency, notably in relation to energy:

• Flights can be ‘offset’, which means you work out your carbon emissions and then send money to fund tree planting or energy efficient technologies —Daily Mail, 2007.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Effectual — Ef*fec tu*al (?; 135), a. [See {Effect}, n.] Producing, or having adequate power or force to produce, an intended effect; adequate; efficient; operative; decisive. Shak. [1913 Webster] Effectual steps for the suppression of the rebellion.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • effectual — index active, adequate, capable, causal, cogent, competent, constructive (creative), decisive …   Law dictionary

  • effectual — late 14c., O.Fr. effectuel, from L.L. effectualis, from L. effectus accomplishment, performance (see EFFECT (Cf. effect)). Used properly of actions (not agents) and with a sense having the effect aimed at. Related: Effectually; effectuality …   Etymology dictionary

  • effectual — *effective, efficacious, efficient Analogous words: effecting, accomplishing, achieving, fulfilling (see PERFORM): operative, dynamic, *active: decisive, determinative, *conclusive Antonyms: ineffectual: fruitless Contrasted words: *futile, v …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • effectual — [adj] influential; authoritative accomplishing, achieving, adequate, binding, capable, conclusive, decisive, determinative, effecting, effective, efficacious, efficient, forcible, fulfilling, in force, lawful, legal, licit, potent, powerful,… …   New thesaurus

  • effectual — ► ADJECTIVE 1) effective. 2) Law (of a legal document) valid or binding. DERIVATIVES effectuality noun effectually adverb effectualness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • effectual — [e fek′cho͞o əl, ifek′cho͞o əl; ] often [ ēfek′cho͞o əl, əfek′cho͞o əl] adj. [ME < OFr effectuel < ML effectualis] 1. producing, or able to produce, the desired effect 2. having legal force; valid SYN. EFFECTIVE effectuality [ə… …   English World dictionary

  • Effectual — L Effectual correspond à une rationalité qui s oppose au mode causal ou prédictif. L Effectuation est un paradigme pragmatiste du management. Partant d’une question de recherche plutôt évidente « quel est le processus de décision des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • effectual — [[t]ɪfe̱ktʃuəl[/t]] ADJ GRADED If an action or plan is effectual, it succeeds in producing the results that were intended. [FORMAL] This is the only effectual way to secure our present and future happiness. Syn: effective Ant: ineffectual …   English dictionary

  • effectual — adjective 1) effectual political action Syn: effective, successful, productive, constructive; worthwhile, helpful, beneficial, advantageous, valuable, useful; formal efficacious See note at effective 2) Law …   Thesaurus of popular words

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