dexterous

adjective
dex·​ter·​ous | \ ˈdek-st(ə-)rəs How to pronounce dexterous (audio) \
variants: or less commonly dextrous

Definition of dexterous

1 : mentally adroit and skillful : clever her dexterous handling of the crisis
2 : done with mental or physical skill, quickness, or grace : done with dexterity : artful a dexterous maneuver
3 : skillful and competent with the hands a dexterous surgeon

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from dexterous

dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for dexterous

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

Did You Know?

Dexterous comes from the Latin word dexter, meaning "on the right side." Since most people are right-handed, and therefore do things more easily with their right hand, dexter developed the sense of skillful. English speakers crafted dexterous from dexter and have been using the resulting adjective for anyone who is skillful-in either a physical or mental capacity-since at least the early 1600s. The adjective ambidextrous, which combines dexter with the Latin prefix ambi-, meaning "both," describes one who is able to use both hands in an equally skillful way.

Examples of dexterous in a Sentence

They praised her dexterous handling of the crisis. The movie is a dexterous retelling of a classic love story.

Recent Examples on the Web

Grant's dexterous movie career took off in the '90s. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Richard E. Grant's Oscar Nomination Is Long Overdue," 24 Feb. 2019 In Tesla’s case, the human body and brain proved, for the time being, more dexterous at running wires and hoses through a car’s machined parts and knitting them all together. Russ Mitchell, latimes.com, "Tesla drops reservation system, opens Model 3 orders to anybody," 10 July 2018 Workers might lose out when robots like the one pictured below become more dexterous. Christopher Mims, WSJ, "How Robots and Drones Will Change Retail Forever," 15 Oct. 2018 There’s a dexterous, gibberish-spouting clown on hand (Andrey Kislitsin) who has a funny extended gag fussing with washing machines on the fritz. Misha Berson, The Seattle Times, "In Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta,’ acro-bicyclists soar and an aerialist hovers in the air by her hair," 18 Sep. 2018 The clips, shot by users, range from a dexterous noodle-maker in Chongqing to a shimmying peacock in a bamboo grove, all set to music. The Economist, "A Chinese music-video app is making WeChat sweat," 12 July 2018 Raniere, like Rand, taught that dexterous use of money — the assigning of value to various goods and services — was one of humanity’s highest virtues. Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York Times, "The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment," 30 May 2018 The work may also help engineers design more dexterous aerial robots—even ones that, yes, can fly backward. Victoria Davis, Science | AAAS, "This video reveals the secret to the dragonfly’s backward flight," 2 July 2018 Rodney later founded Rethink Robotics, makers of the dexterous and creepily human-ish Sawyer and Baxter robots. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Ars on your lunch break, part one: Rodney Brooks and robot ethics," 20 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of dexterous

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dexterous

Latin dextr-, dexter on the right side, skillful

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dexterous

Share dexterous

Statistics for dexterous

Last Updated

16 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dexterous

The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dexterous

dexterous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of dexterous

formal : having or showing great skill or cleverness : showing dexterity

dexterous

adjective
dex·​ter·​ous | \ ˈdek-stə-rəs How to pronounce dexterous (audio) , -strəs\

Kids Definition of dexterous

1 : skillful with the hands a dexterous potter
2 : clever sense 2 a dexterous chess player
3 : done with skill The skier made a dexterous jump.

Other Words from dexterous

dexterously adverb

dexterous

adjective
dex·​ter·​ous
variants: also dextrous \ ˈdek-​st(ə-​)rəs How to pronounce dextrous (audio) \

Medical Definition of dexterous

1 : skillful and competent with the hands
2 : mentally adroit and skillful

Other Words from dexterous

dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on dexterous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dexterous

Spanish Central: Translation of dexterous

Nglish: Translation of dexterous for Spanish Speakers

Comments on dexterous

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

WORD OF THE DAY

a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!