dex·​ter·​ous | \ˈdek-st(ə-)rəs \
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

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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

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 His two days in the spotlight will solidify his developing image as an increasingly dexterous regional statesman -- a status no North Korean leader has ever enjoyed. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "What really came out of the Trump-Kim summit," 12 June 2018 Taking on human opponents would be far too easy for her, given her dexterous, shape-shifting skills that enable her arms and legs to instantly stretch to hitherto unimaginable lengths. Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Incredibles 2': Film Review," 11 June 2018 Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have a long and dexterous history of trolling one another on social media, and that currently shows no signs of stopping. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Ryan Reynolds Trolls Blake Lively Again, and Reveals She Drove Herself to Hospital While in Labor," 27 May 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.

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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

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Statistics for dexterous

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for dexterous

The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

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More Definitions for dexterous



English Language Learners Definition of dexterous

: having or showing great skill or cleverness : showing dexterity


dex·​ter·​ous | \ˈdek-stə-rəs, -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


variants: also dextrous \ˈdek-​st(ə-​)rəs \

Medical Definition of dexterous 

1 : skillful and competent with the hands

2 : mentally adroit and skillful

Other Words from dexterous

dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

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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

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to enclose within walls

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