AskDefine | Define synergy

Dictionary Definition

synergy n : the working together of two things (muscles or drugs for example) to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects [syn: synergism]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (UK): /ˈsɪnədʒi/, /"sIn@dZi/
  • (US): , /ˈsɪnɚdʒi/, /"sIn@`dZi/


  1. Behavior of a system that cannot be predicted by the behavior of its parts.
  2. In the context of "medicine": Combined action; the combined healthy action of every organ of a particular system; as, the digestive synergy.
  3. The result of combining two different groups, people, objects or processes.

Usage notes

  • Synergy is frequently dismissed as business jargon.



behavior of a system that cannot be predicted by the behavior of its parts
  • Dutch: synergie
  • Finnish: synergia
  • Portuguese: Sinergia
medicine: combined action
result of combining two different groups, people, objects or processes
  • Dutch: synergie
  • Finnish: synergia
Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

Synergy (from the Greek , meaning working together, circa 1660) pp refers to the phenomenon in which two or more discrete influences or agents acting together create an effect greater than that predicted by knowing only the separate effects of the individual agents. It is originally a scientific term. The Apostle Paul used the word in his Epistles (Bible verse |Romans|8:28|KJV; Bible verse 1|Corinthians|3:9|KJV) to illustrate a dynamic conception of human, divine and cosmic cooperation: "I did the planting, Apollos the watering, but God made things grow…We are fellow workers () with God; you are God's cultivation, God's building."
The opposite of synergy is antagonism, the phenomenon where two agents in combination have an overall effect that is less than that predicted from their individual effects. Synergism stems from the 1657 theological doctrine that humans will cooperate with the Divine Grace in regeneration The term began to be used in the broader, non-theological, sense by 1925. Synergy can also mean:
  • A mutually advantageous conjunction where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • A dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the sum of individual component actions.
  • Behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately. More accurately known as emergent behavior

Drug abuse

Drug synergism occurs when drugs can interact in ways that enhance or magnify one or more effects, or side effects, of those drugs. This is sometimes exploited in combination preparations, such as Codeine mixed with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to enhance the action of codeine as a pain reliever. This is often seen with recreational drugs, where 5-HTP, a Serotonin precursor often used as an antidepressant, is often used prior to, during, and shortly after recreational use of MDMA as it allegedly increases the "high" and decreases the "comedown" stages of MDMA use (although most anecdotal evidence has pointed to 5-HTP moderately muting the effect of MDMA). Other examples include the use of Cannabis with LSD, where the active chemicals in cannabis enhance the hallucinatory experience of LSD-use.
An example of negative effects of synergy is if more than one depressant drug is used that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS), for example alcohol and Valium. The combination can cause a greater reaction than simply the sum of the individual effects of each drug if they were used separately. In this particular case, the most serious consequence of drug synergy is exaggerated respiratory depression, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Pest synergy

Pest synergy, for example, would occur in a biological host organism population, where the introduction of parasite A may cause 10% fatalities of the individuals, and parasite B may also cause 10% loss. When both parasites are present, the losses are observed to be significantly greater than the expected 19%, and it is said that the parasites in combination have a synergistic effect. An example is beekeeping in North America where three foreign parasites of the honeybee, acarine mite, tracheal mite and the small hive beetle, all were introduced within a short period of time.

Toxicologic synergy

Toxicologic synergy is of concern to the public and regulatory agencies because chemicals individually considered safe might pose unacceptable health or ecological risk when exposure is to a combination. Articles in scientific and lay journals include many definitions of chemical or toxicologic synergy, often vague or in conflict with each other. Because toxic interactions are defined relative to the expectation under "no interaction," a determination of synergy (or antagonism) depends on what is meant by "no interaction." The United States Environmental Protection Agency has one of the more detailed and precise definitions of toxic interaction, designed to facilitate risk assessment. In their guidance documents, the no-interaction default assumption is dose addition, so synergy means a mixture response that exceeds that predicted from dose addition. The EPA emphasizes that synergy does not always make a mixture dangerous, nor does antagonism always make the mixture safe; each depends on the predicted risk under dose addition.
For example, a consequence of pesticide use is the risk of health effects. During the registration of pesticides in the US exhaustive tests are performed to discern health effects on humans at various exposure levels. A regulatory upper limit of presence in foods is then placed on this pesticide. As long as residues in the food stay below this regulatory level, health effects are deemed highly unlikely and the food is considered safe to consume.
However in normal agal practice it is rare to use only a single pesticide. During the production of a crop several different materials may be used. Each of them has had determined a regulatory level at which they would be considered individually safe. In many cases, a commercial pesticide is itself a combination of several chemical agents, and thus the safe levels actually represent levels of the mixture. In contrast, combinations created by the end user, such as a farmer, are rarely tested as that combination. The potential for synergy is then unknown or estimated from data on similar combinations. This lack of information also applies to many of the chemical combinations to which humans are exposed, including residues in food, indoor air contaminants, and occupational exposures to chemicals. Some groups think that the rising rates of cancer, asthma and other health problems may be caused by these combination exposures; others have other explanations. This question will likely be answered only after years of exposure by the population in general and research on chemical toxicity, usually performed on animals.

Human synergy

Human synergy relates to interacting humans. For example, say person A alone is too short to reach an apple on a tree and person B is too short as well. Once person B sits on the shoulders of person A, they are more than tall enough to reach the apple. In this example, the product of their synergy would be one apple. Another case would be two politicians. If each is able to gather one million votes on their own, but together they were able to appeal to 2.5 million voters, their synergy would have produced 500,000 more votes than had they each worked independently.
A third form of human synergy is when one person is able to complete two separate tasks by doing one action. For example, if a person was asked by a teacher and his boss at work to write an essay on how he could improve his work, that would be considered synergy.
Synergy usually arises when two persons with different complementary skills cooperate. The fundamental example is cooperation of men and women in a couple. In business, cooperation of people with organizational and technical skills happens very often. In general, the most common reason why people cooperate is that it brings a synergy. On the other hand, people tend to specialize just to be able to form groups with high synergy (see also division of labor and teamwork).

Corporate synergy

Corporate synergy occurs when corporations interact congruently. A corporate synergy refers to a financial benefit that a corporation expects to realize when it merges with or acquires another corporation. This type of synergy is a nearly ubiquitous feature of a corporate acquisition and is a negotiating point between the buyer and seller that impacts the final price both parties agree to. There are two distinct types of corporate synergies:


A revenue synergy refers to the opportunity of a combined corporate entity to generate more revenue than its two predecessor standalone companies would be able to generate. For example, if company A sells product X through its sales force, company B sells product Y, and company A decides to buy company B then the new company could use each sales person to sell products X and Y thereby increasing the revenue that each sales person generates for the company.


A cost synergy refers to the opportunity of a combined corporate entity to reduce or eliminate expenses associated with running a business. Cost synergies are realized by eliminating positions that are viewed as duplicate within the merged entity. Examples include the head quarters office of one of the predecessor companies, certain executives, the human resources department, or other employees of the predecessor companies. This is related to the economic concept of Economies of Scale.


Synergy can also be defined as the combination of human strengths and computer strengths. Computers can process data much faster than humans, but lack common sense. For a person using a computer, the person’s thoughts are the input for the computer, where it is translated into efficient processing of large amounts of data. Other humans must first set up the methods for processing, for example

Synergy in the media

Synergy in media economics, is the promotion and sale of a product (and all its versions) throughout the various subsidiaries of a media conglomerate (Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture 5: an Introduction to Mass Communication. Fifth Edition 2007 Update ed. Bostin: Bedford St. Martins, 2007. 606. ) (e.g. film and soundtrack and video game). Walt Disney pioneered synergistic marketing techniques in the 1930s by granting dozens of firms the right to use his Mickey Mouse character in products and ads, and continued to market Disney media through licensing arrangements. These products can help advertise the film itself and thus help to increase the film's sales. For example, the Spider-Man films had toys of webshooters and figures of the characters made, as well as posters and games.
synergy in Danish: Synergi
synergy in German: Synergie
synergy in Spanish: Sinergia
synergy in Persian: هم‌افزایی
synergy in French: Synergie
synergy in Ido: Sinergio
synergy in Italian: Sinergia
synergy in Hebrew: סינרגיה
synergy in Dutch: Synergie
synergy in Japanese: 相乗効果
synergy in Polish: Synergia
synergy in Portuguese: Sinergia
synergy in Russian: Синергия
synergy in Slovenian: Sinergija
synergy in Ukrainian: Синергетика

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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