Simple Definition of tact
: the ability to do or say things without offending or upsetting other people
Examples of tact in a sentence
Far from joining polite society like the debutants of the past, the kids gleefully rip through social graces, alienating friends and sacrificing tact all in the name of creating a VIP room filled with people too young to drive themselves home. —Ana Marie Cox, Time, 24 Apr. 2006
The attorney general's lack of restraint and want of tact, on such an occasion … were clearly symptomatic of a considerable irritation, even rage. —Christopher Hitchens, Harper's, March 2001
In society tact is the great art that makes for civility, for civilization … —Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadance, 2000
He did not clear his throat with badinage, as timidity teaches us to do, nor did he waste his breath with tact. —Earl Shorris, Harper's, September 1997
A man of gentle mien, he is inclined to use psychology and tact, rather than showboat heroics, when pursuing his murder inquiries. —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review, 1 Jan. 1989
The peace talks required great tact on the part of both leaders.
I was surprised by his lack of tact.
Did You Know?
This word came to English directly from French (a Latin-based language), where it can also mean simply "sense of touch". Dealing with difficult situations involving other people can require the kind of extreme sensitivity that our fingertips possess. As Lincoln once said, "Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves", which doesn't usually come naturally. Someone tactful can soothe the feelings of the most difficult people; a tactless person will generally make a bad situation worse.
Origin and Etymology of tact
French, sense of touch, from Latin tactus, from tangere to touch — more at tangent
First Known Use: 1797
Synonym Discussion of tact
TACT Defined for Kids
Definition of tact for Students
: the ability to do or say things without offending other people <She settled the argument with tact.>
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tact? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).