art·​ful ˈärt-fəl How to pronounce artful (audio)
: performed with or showing art or skill
an artful performance on the violin
: using or characterized by art and skill : dexterous
an artful prose stylist
: adroit in attaining an end usually by insinuating or indirect means : wily
an artful cross-examiner
: artificial
trim walks and artful bowersWilliam Wordsworth
artfully adverb
artfulness noun

Did you know?

A writer may produce an artful piece of prose, one that's clearly and elegantly written. The same writer might also make an artful argument, one that cleverly leaves out certain details and plays up others so as to make a stronger case. In the first instance, the prose is well crafted; in the second, the argument might instead be called crafty. But even though both uses are correct, most of us still use artful somewhat differently from artistic.

Choose the Right Synonym for artful

sly, cunning, crafty, wily, tricky, foxy, artful, slick mean attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means.

sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.

a sly corporate raider

cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.

the cunning fox avoided the trap

crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.

a crafty lefthander

wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.

the wily fugitive escaped the posse

tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.

a tricky political operative

foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.

a foxy publicity man planting stories

artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.

elicited the information by artful questioning

slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.

slick operators selling time-sharing

Examples of artful in a Sentence

the artful lawyer got the witness to admit he had been lying that kitchen gadget is an artful tool for extracting cherry pits
Recent Examples on the Web There’s an artful balancing of forethought and openness throughout the season — especially in the final turn of the screw in Episode 9 when the two protagonists have to navigate what their relationship is going to be in Deborah’s late night era. Sarah Shachat, IndieWire, 13 June 2024 And while Savannah’s dish was exceptionally artful and dramatic, the pieces didn’t fall into place. Rachel Bernhard, Journal Sentinel, 29 May 2024 First established in Little Rock, Arkansas and now in 29 states, the stores look sleek with artful displays and on-trend styles. Carolanne Griffith Roberts, Southern Living, 22 May 2024 Included are artful, dark journeys into the quest for physical perfection, and even supernatural horror., 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for artful 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'artful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of artful was in 1583

Dictionary Entries Near artful

Cite this Entry

“Artful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


art·​ful ˈärt-fəl How to pronounce artful (audio)
: done with or showing art or skill
: clever at taking advantage
artfully adverb
artfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on artful

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