efficacious vs effective vs efficient

How do you use these words?

I don’t use the word “efficacious”.

There seems to be a fine line between “effective” and “efficient”. However, I’m not sure how to define it. I know it when I see it.

EG - If I want to get a cat out of a tree, I could set the tree on fire. That would be an extremely effective way to get it done. I’m not sure that it’s very efficient, though.

Effective means “it gets the objective done.”

Efficient means “it gets the objective done in a way that is comparatively optimal by some criterion”. Often the criterion is unstated or assumed by a context, but something that is efficient on on criterion (e.g. financial) may not be on another (e.g. time).

“Efficacious” pretty much means “effective” but sounds like a bigger word. It probably defines best as “the quality of being effective,” which is why it’s so annoying to use: it doesn’t exactly mean “effective” but it kind of dances around that meaning while saying “look at me! I’m a big word, now!”

Somewhere S2000 just got wood and he doesn’t know why.

You mean this was efficacious at lumbering?

Darn it, we want upvotes! Upvote to Sweep there.

The only context I have heard efficacious is in a description of a generic drug.