Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
the end justifies the means
A positive outcome justifies the unscrupulous methods one employs to reach it. I know you think that the end justifies the means, but stealing test answers to get better grades is just not a good idea.
The end justifies the means.
Prov. You can use bad or immoral methods as long as you accomplish something good by using them. (Not everyone agrees with this idea.) Lucy got money for the orphanage by embezzling it from the firm where she worked. "The end justifies the means," she told herself. The politician clearly believed that the end justifies the means, since he used all kinds of nefarious means to get elected.
justify something by something
to try to explain why something needs doing or why it is acceptable to do something. You cannot justify violence by quoting proverbs. Your action was totally justified by the circumstances.
See also: justify
justify something to someone
to explain something to someone and show why it is necessary. Please try to justify this to the voters. I can justify your action to no one.
See also: justify
end justifies the means, the
A good outcome excuses any wrongs committed to attain it. For example, He's campaigning with illegal funds on the theory that if he wins the election the end will justify the means , or The officer tricked her into admitting her guilt-the end sometimes justifies the means. This proverbial (and controversial) observation dates from ancient times, but in English it was first recorded only in 1583.
the end justifies the meanswrong or unfair methods may be used if the overall goal is good.
The Roman poet Ovid expresses this concept in Heroides as exitus acta probat meaning ‘the outcome justifies the actions’.