I think this question came up in a conversation with a friend...we were discussing how serving lunch could be made more efficient.

They could _____ the lunch line by doing this or that.

The only word we could think of was "efficienize", but I doubt that's an actual word. Any ideas?

  • 2
    "efficien[s]ize" is a great example of a word that should be in the english language because it fills a hole not quite filled by alternatives, but people refuse to add it/use it, because it's not "proper" english.
    – Jonathan.
    Oct 1, 2011 at 11:46
  • @Jonathon: What about the accepted answer? That fits it exactly. Oct 5, 2011 at 21:28
  • I know you're looking for a single word, but I would just say: They could make the lunch line more efficient by doing this or that.
    – Lynn
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:55
  • 2
    Actually I came up with the exact same question and concluded identically that there really is no word for it exactly. I was envisioning a word to mean to make more efficient again: namely, to “re-efficientise” something. So I am coining a new word: to efficientize something! You like it?! I guess my second suggestion would be the originally suggested efficienize. The other words don’t quite cut it with respect to the intention of the meaning we are trying to portray.
    – user33612
    Jan 13, 2013 at 2:14
  • Another made-up new word is "efficientify." In general, you can add "ify" to any English word to turn that word into a verb. Dec 17, 2020 at 3:13

6 Answers 6


I think that the word you're looking for here is optimize:

From Merriam-Webster: to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible

  • 8
    Damn you sirrah! The word is optimise! :) Sep 30, 2011 at 20:46
  • 4
    For me as non-native, 'optimize' has a different meaning. As you say: as effective as possible, whereas the question was more effective, not a optimum state. Isn't that something different?
    – bonifaz
    Sep 30, 2011 at 21:14
  • 5
    Optimizing is the process of making something optimal. So to optimize is to make more efficient. Sep 30, 2011 at 21:18
  • 4
    Not to rock the boat, but I disagree. Optimisation is the (usually incremental) process of making something optimal, but when you optimise something it's usually done in discrete steps. So, the process by which something becomes optimal is optimisation, but it doesn't have to be optimal until the end of the process.
    – Andy F
    Oct 1, 2011 at 13:50
  • 2
    Optimize doesn't feel right here but I can't put my finger on why. I optimize the web site performance. I optimize the process for washing dishes. Optimizing the lunch line doesn't quite make sense to me.
    – Lynn
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:53


  1. (transitive) To design and construct the contours of a vehicle etc. so as to offer the least resistance to its flow through a fluid.
  2. (transitive, by extension) To simplify or organize a process in order to increase its efficiency.
  3. (transitive) To modernise.
  • 6
    In the context of making a lunch line more efficient, I'd go with this word.
    – Gnawme
    Sep 30, 2011 at 20:33
  • I'd argue against using this word, as it's been frequently abused as a buzzword.
    – IQAndreas
    Dec 25, 2013 at 12:04

Why not just use the word 'improve'?
Seems to fit in quite nicely in the sentence:
"They could improve the lunch line by doing this or that."

I think that optimize doesn't quite capture the original intent (and it doesn't sound as good to me): "They could optimize the lunch line by doing this or that."

  • 2
    I don't think "improve" is specific enough for this request.
    – Rae
    Oct 1, 2011 at 15:09
  • +1 Optimize implies there are no further improvements to be made, whereas improve leaves room for more. Jun 20, 2012 at 2:25

A great word for this is kaizen, a word originating in Japanese production improvement systems. It is not all that common in general English, but in operations and production systems it has become quite a common term.

FYI, it originally was a noun and sometimes an adjective, however, it has transformed in English to be usable as a verb too. "Could you guys kaizen the production line?"

  • Is using kaizen as a verb like using ask as a noun?
    – fluffy
    Oct 1, 2011 at 0:43
  • @fluffy: I've only ever seen it as a noun, not a verb.
    – Lynn
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:53
  • Are you sure about that? Do people ask you things, or do they ask you what "the ask" is? (Or were you referring to kaizen? In which case that was exactly my point.)
    – fluffy
    Nov 30, 2011 at 17:15

I would argue that "optimize" is close but not exactly the same. To say that a company "optimized its procedures" is not the same as saying that a "company rendered its procedures more efficient", because the latter implies results whereas the former only implies changes made which will hopefully yield results. In the example given by the OP, "optimize" works just fine. But in other scenarios, "render more efficient" or "increase the efficiency of" would give a more accurate meaning.


Shorten the lunch line. Speed up the lunch line.

You are talking about making the lunch-serving process more efficient, and your example says you are measuring that by how long (presumably) the queue is. So. Improving the serving process means reducing the number of people in the line, or the waiting time on it.

"I'm hungry, dammit. Send in the operations managers!"

Operations management is the discipline of business administration concerned with making processes more efficient. You could read up on it to find out what has been done lately in the area of meal-serving.


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