mean tending to impose one's will on others. masterful
implies a strong personality and ability to act authoritatively <her masterful personality soon dominated the movement>
suggests an overbearing or arbitrary manner and an obstinate determination to enforce one's will <children controlled by domineering parents>
implies a commanding nature or manner and often suggests arrogant assurance <an imperious executive used to getting his own way>
implies an abrupt dictatorial manner coupled with an unwillingness to brook disobedience or dissent <given a peremptory dismissal>
implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate <an imperative appeal for assistance>
Some commentators insist that use of masterful
should be limited to sense 1 in order to preserve a distinction between it and masterly.
The distinction is a modern one, excogitated by a 20th century pundit in disregard of the history of the word. Both words developed in a parallel manner but the earlier sense of masterly,
equivalent to masterful
1, dropped out of use. Since masterly
had but one sense, the pundit opined that it would be tidy if masterful
were likewise limited to one sense and he forthwith condemned use of masterful
2 as an error. Sense 2 of masterful,
which is slightly older than the sense of masterly
intended to replace it, has continued in reputable use all along; it cannot rationally be called an error.