Is there any connection between the term machination and the writer Niccolò Machiavelli or is it just a coincidence that they are so similar?

It seems logical because aside from having similar spellings, the terms Machiavellian and machination both mean cleverly sneaky and shrewdly planning. However, my research has been inconclusive and I cannot find a reference that machination derives from the writer (or any first-usage dates for that matter). Here are the points for and against it:

  • For an etymology:

    • Identical meanings
    • Similar spellings
    • First known usage of machination is 15th century which coincides nicely with Machiavelli’s lifetime (1469-1527) and spread of work
    • The term Machiavellian became popular in the 16th century, so it was not long after his death that people were know to start coining words in reference to him and his style
  • For just a coincidence:

    • Cannot find any references to Machiavelli being the etymology
    • Some sources refer to a Latin root: machinatio

So is there any connection, are they cognates, or is it just a big amusing coincidence?

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    (Yes there are big and little coincidences. ☺)
    – Synetech
    Jun 28, 2014 at 3:03
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    Machination is just another derivative of Greek mēkhanē and Latin machina. Machiavelli is a family name, which may have to do with machines, in fact; I don't know. Jun 28, 2014 at 3:22
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    No. Not even a coincidence in a technical sense. NARQ.
    – Kris
    Jun 28, 2014 at 6:26
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    houseofnames.com/machiavelli-family-crest "First found in 850, when Ugo Macchiavelli was Marquis of Tuscany." ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=machiavelli (latter requires login)
    – Kris
    Jun 28, 2014 at 6:35
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    it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machiavelli_(famiglia) On the family emblem/coat of arms, there are nails which suggest that the family was either connected with smiths or merchants dealing with metal, another theory suggests that the nails and the large cross in the middle are the holy relics which the brothers Alberico e Uberto Machiavelli took (stole) from their adventures in the crusades. Originally the surname was Malclavellus a deviation of Malchiodo, the Italianized version of the Jewish surname Melki'or = my king or my God.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 28, 2014 at 7:20

3 Answers 3


No, aside from the similarities in spelling, there there is no connection between machination and Machiavelli. Machination comes from the Latin root machinat-, which in turn came from the Greek mekhos: "contrivance". There is no convincing evidence to suggest that the name Machiavelli was derived from the word, or any of its roots or later derivatives.

  • No, aside from the similarities in spelling, there there is no connection between machination and Machiavelli. …other than the similarity in meaning?
    – Synetech
    Jul 7, 2014 at 0:32
  • Yes, meaning as well, but the point is it's coincidental, since they are derived from different roots.
    – Maurice L.
    Jul 7, 2014 at 0:34
  • That’s exactly what I was trying to find out, if there is a connection or it is just an amusing coincidence. I can live with that answer.
    – Synetech
    Jul 7, 2014 at 0:38
  • Yes, it is just an amusing coincidence. Machiavelli doesn't mean anything by itself, it only came to take on the similar meaning later on when people began to use it as an adjective: Machiavellian. The fact that Machiavelli happened to be fond of machinating is simply coincidental. There is no evidence to suggest that one is derived from the other.
    – Maurice L.
    Jul 7, 2014 at 0:38

No: macchinazione, i.e. the act of macchinare, was already used before 1348 (G. Villani), and macchinagione in 1310. Source: DELI, Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana.


The family name Machiavelli could derive from a profession originally ie stainer of fleeces or could be connected with metal works ie 'The surname Macchiavelli is derived from the Italian word malo, and from the Latin malus, which means dangerous and chiavella meaning nail or spike.'

  • 2
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