Deus Ex Machina Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

You may have heard someone say deus ex machina, but do you know its meaning? This guide will tell you everything about the meaning of deus ex machina.

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If you play video games (namely Deus Ex), have an interest in Ancient Greek theater, or are an actor, you’ve likely come across the word deus ex machina, but do you know what it means? Not to worry, many folks are unfamiliar with the true meaning of deus ex machina — that’s why we put together this guide to help!

In this post, we’ll go over the definition of deus ex machina and its origin to help you truly understand its meaning, usage, and more. If you’ve ever wondered about deus ex machina, keep reading. 

What Is the Definition of Deus Ex Machina?

Deus ex machina is a plot device used to get a main character out of a situation with insoluble difficulty or what appears to be a seemingly hopeless situation. This seemingly unsolvable conflict is resolved by simply introducing an implausible object, event, character, action, or event. 

Examples of Deus Ex Machina in Literature

  • Philip Roth — The Plot Against America
  • Edgar Alan Poe — The Pit and the Pendulum

Examples of Deus Ex Machina in Ancient Greek Theater

  • Aeschylus — Orestia
  • Euripides — Meda

Examples of Deus Ex Machina in Film

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Emperor’s New Groove 

Deus ex machina is pronounced dey-uhs eks -mah-kuh-nuh or dee-uhs eks -mak-uh-nuh.

What Does the Literary Term Deus Ex Machina Mean?

Think back to the days when Adam West still played Batman. Does anyone remember how the actor just so happened to fall into a mattress factory after falling from a helicopter? 

Or perhaps how he always seems to have his hand dandy, overly conspicuous, and often oddly specific tool for the job: “Robin, hand me my handy shark repellent..” 

Well, if you couldn’t recall or simply weren’t around for those times, sadly, they happened — but they are all prime examples of deus ex machina. 

A deus ex machina often brings forth a peaceful resolution, but not everyone loves a happy ending (at least, not when it’s unearned). Unfortunately, most agree that the use of a deus ex machina can be viewed as the lazy way out. 

The use of this literary device is controversial at best, chiefly due to the fact that the story’s resolution then comes from some unexpected introduction of a new element. Rather than from what most of us have come to expect — circumstances that have happened and facts that have already been introduced.

What Is the Etymology of Deus Ex Machina?

The origin of the term deus ex machina begins with Ancient Greek theater, where the term was first coined. In Greek drama and Roman drama, actors portraying gods (deus) were lowered onto stage via a crane (machine) at the end of a play, and their sudden appearance would just save the day. 

The new Latin term literally meaning god from a machine was popularized largely in part by the ancient playwright Euripides and his love for one of the very first forms of special effects: the deus ex machina. The word of the day is a translation of the Greek apò mēchanês theó.

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Deus Ex Machina?

While there are a few phrases and words we can use in lieu of deus ex machina (you remembered your thesaurus, right?), there are no acceptable antonyms for the word of the day. 

To guide you along, we have a few of the commonly known synonyms of deus ex machina listed below: 

  • Unconvincing character
  • Improbable device
  • Gimmick
  • Divine intervention
  • Happy coincidence
  • Unexpected end
  • Contrivance
  • God in the machine
  • Unconvincing event

How Can You Use Deus Ex Machina in a Sentence?

We now know how the word of the day is used in films, Greek theatre, and plays, but how can we use it in a sentence, you ask? Below you will find example sentences on the proper usage of deus ex machina.

Use these example sentences to better your understanding of the meaning behind deus ex machina. Afterwards, try to quiz yourself by seeing how many of your own you can write!

Honestly, after countless things have gone wrong, perhaps it’s time to start wondering when a deus ex machina will descend from above to save the day.

Of course, the author used a deus ex machina; there is no way they were going to be able to resolve that crisis in any other way, and honestly, it was nothing but a letdown. 

The use of the deus ex machina devices is way too convenient; the contrived solution is just brutal to watch.


Just remember the next time you watch a movie, and the absurdly complex plot is out of nowhere solved by an even more absurd and, more often than not, ridiculous action — you’ll now know that’s definitely a deus ex machina. 


  1. Deus Ex Machina – Definition and Examples | LitCharts 
  2. Synonyms for Deus Ex Machina | Power Thesaurus  
  3. Deus Ex Machina | Britannica