art·​ful | \ ˈärt-fəl How to pronounce artful (audio) \

Definition of artful

1 : performed with or showing art or skill an artful performance on the violin
2a : using or characterized by art and skill : dexterous an artful prose stylist
b : adroit in attaining an end usually by insinuating or indirect means : wily an artful cross-examiner
3 : artificial trim walks and artful bowers— William Wordsworth

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Other Words from artful

artfully \ ˈärt-​fə-​lē How to pronounce artfully (audio) \ adverb
artfulness noun

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

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.

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 New York Now that Horton Foote has left us, who is putting small-town America onstage in a way that is both artful and comprehending—both of its myriad flaws and its equally compelling virtues? Terry Teachout, WSJ, "‘Greater Clements’ Review: There’s No Place Like Home," 2 Jan. 2020 On a day when Tommy Rees made his debut as an offensive play-caller, the most artful strategist in AP No. 14 Notre Dame’s 33-9 domination of Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, Saturday in Orlando, Fla., was Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea. Eric Hansen, Indianapolis Star, "Offense brought intrigue, but Notre Dame defense ruled the day in Camping World Bowl rout," 28 Dec. 2019 This one wasn’t very artful, and right now neither is the offense., "FOXBOROUGH — Forget Next Man Up, Julian Edelman is the last one left, the last trusted Tom Brady target at wide receiver still standing.," 12 Oct. 2019 One wrinkle to New York Fashion Week is that some of the most artful American designers instead prefer to show in Europe (Rick Owens, Virgil Abloh) or by private appointment (Kate and Laura Mulleavy, of Rodarte). Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "A Message of Useful Beauty from New York Fashion Week," 10 Sep. 2019 Credit largely goes to lead singer Adrianne Lenker, whose frail voice disarms before lurching into a growling howl — but each player serves up subtle turns that make the whole thing mesmerizing, eerie and artful all at once. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, "2019 pop music Top 10: Lizzo, Bob Seger, Lana del Rey, Danny Brown, Big Thief," 27 Dec. 2019 Sprinkled about are artful touches like a raw copper tap box and two pinball machines off the main room. Andre Meunier,, "Copier salesman hits reset button, starts Second Profession: Portland Breweries Series," 29 July 2019 The rubber backing is an artful touch, one that is largely unseen but reveals a keen attention to detail. Daniel Miller,, "Just like underwear, wine and vitamins: You can subscribe to the Volvo XC40," 29 June 2018 That's exactly what HBO's Euphoria did this year with its inventive use of glitter and artful takes on eyeliner. Glamour, "How to Do Euphoria Makeup for Halloween, According to the Show's Makeup Artist," 22 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'artful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of artful

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of artful was in 1583

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Artful.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for artful


How to pronounce artful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of artful

: done with or showing artistic skill
: good at getting or achieving things in ways that are clever and not noticeable : used to get or achieve things in ways that are clever and not noticeable


art·​ful | \ ˈärt-fəl How to pronounce artful (audio) \

Kids Definition of artful

1 : done with or showing art or skill artful writing
2 : clever at taking advantage an artful salesman

Other Words from artful

artfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on artful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for artful

Spanish Central: Translation of artful

Nglish: Translation of artful for Spanish Speakers

Comments on artful

What made you want to look up artful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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