: characterized by facility and skill
the photographer's deft use of lighting
the deft fingers of the trumpeter
deftly adverb
deftness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for deft

dexterous, adroit, deft mean ready and skilled in physical movement.

dexterous implies expertness with consequent facility and quickness in manipulation.

unrolled the sleeping bag with a dexterous toss

adroit implies dexterity but usually also stresses resourcefulness or artfulness or inventiveness.

the magician's adroit response to the failure of her prop won applause

deft emphasizes lightness, neatness, and sureness of touch or handling.

a surgeon's deft manipulation of the scalpel

Examples of deft in a Sentence

The photographer is known for her deft use of lighting. a luthier whose deft craftsmanship is prized by violinists the world over
Recent Examples on the Web Elizabeth is such a deft comedian and brought so much to it. Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 This was followed by Fujii’s deft arrangement of a Japanese tamping song for the full ensemble. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Nov. 2023 New to Bochy when this season began, Rangers players tell about his deft comedic touch that has eased their journey. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Oct. 2023 Under the deft leadership of its president, Shawn Fain, and other officials elected in March 2023, the union has thrown the three companies off balance with a strike that began on Sept. 15 – the minute its prior contracts expired. Marick Masters, Fortune, 8 Oct. 2023 Its 55 minutes are full of all the eager-to-please grossness and deft pop culture references that fans will crave. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 Sep. 2023 Whether the Republican strategy proves to be a defiance of court orders that the Supreme Court will shoot down or a deft political move will become clearer over the next month. Gary Fields and Adriana Gomez Licon, BostonGlobe.com, 17 Sep. 2023 Among young voters, Ko has a leg up thanks to his deft use of social media. Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 These tales might remind older readers of another Texas storyteller: J. California Cooper, who had a similar gift for expressing humanity’s pain and joyfulness through her deft use of African-American Vernacular English. Joyce Sáenz Harris, Dallas News, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


perhaps continuing Middle English daffte, daft, defte "well-mannered, gentle, dull, foolish" — more at daft

Note: Rather than being derived directly from Middle English, Modern English deft may go back to an unattested Old English *gedefte (with umlaut), with a meaning "fit, ready" developing to "apt, skilfull"; the sense shift is otherwise difficult to account for, though the lack of any certain attestation of deft in the sense "skillful" before the later 16th century makes this scenario hypothetical.

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of deft was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near deft

Cite this Entry

“Deft.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deft. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


: quick and skillful in action
knitting with deft fingers
deftly adverb
deftness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on deft

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