I want to know a single word which denotes the idea of full or maximum utilization, such as the words exploit or milk. But the trouble is, they both have a negative tone to them. Is there a positive word which can be substituted for 'best use' etc.

  • Now that I think about it, optimal seems like a pretty good choice. Like he made optimal use of the opportunity. Has a definite positive ring to it. Sep 13, 2014 at 20:45

6 Answers 6


I think it's worth pointing out that exploit doesn't always have a negative connotation, particularly in the context of exploit the benefits of... (or, exploit the advantages of...)

"Hardware support alone is not sufficient to exploit the benefits of multithreading. We believe that the performance benefits of multithreading can only be realized when the paradigm is applied across all levels..." (M. Zelkowitz)

Most online dictionaries I consulted showed two definitions - one positive, and one negative. Moreover, the positive sense of the word was usually listed first. From Merriam-Webster's:

exploit (trans. verb) 1 : to make productive use of; to utilize 2 : to make use of meanly or unfairly for one's own advantage

Nonetheless, the negative connotation is undeniably there. If you're looking for a synonym without that negative connotation, you might try leverage (already suggested) or harness.


I’m not up-to-date with the latest trends in business jargon, but I know that leverage supplanted utilize as the favoured term for “get the most from”. Optimize also has some currency.

As you say, exploiting people is not OK, but business jargon gets around this by either dehumanizing (are humans really just annother “resource”?) or recasting in a positive light.

Here at MegaCorp, every individual counts. We strive for excellence in all things, and we work with our team members to help them reach their maximum potential and achieve their career goals.

In other words:

Here at MegaCorp, there is no room for slackers. Only the strong survive, and you’re going to have to give us everything you’ve got if you want to get on here.


What about 'capitalize on'? To my my American ear it does not sound negative, but maybe it isn't 'correct'.


I suggest maximize:

: to make the most of

  • Yes. True. But to be honest, the word maximize has so much been used with the word profit, that it feels like it has a corporate air to it. I mean, semantically speaking it's just the word. But is there any other? Mar 16, 2012 at 22:41
  • 1
    Leverage is popular these days. Mar 16, 2012 at 23:27
  • 1
    Ever since Jack Sparrow mentioned leverage?
    – Bidella
    Mar 17, 2012 at 12:29

In Spanish, there is such a verb: aprovechar. But there doesn't seem to be any single English word that captures all of that, without also being prone to pejorative use.

Several phrases, like take advantage of, utilize (or use) efficiently, and so on, present themselves, but in the end they are always about efficiency of manipulating or producing objects, not about people. So there's no way to get rid of the pejorative impulses that surround these terms; they're unavoidable whenever more than one person is involved in the resource being efficiently used or the advantage being taken.

  • An 8k person saying this, discourages me. But I would still wait for someone to answer before I accept any :) Mar 16, 2012 at 22:59

For a more positive connotation that doesn't sound too "corporate" you might try synonyms from the agricultural realm such as: harvest or cultivate.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.