dexterous

adjective

dex·​ter·​ous ˈdek-st(ə-)rəs How to pronounce dexterous (audio)
variants or less commonly dextrous
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
dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

Did you know?

If you believe dexterous to be on the right side of etymological history, well, right on. 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 additional 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 noun dexterity arrived a bit earlier, influenced both by Latin and the Middle French word dexterité). 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. With so many handy words at its disposal, the English language itself is pretty dexterous, amirite?

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

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 Her versatility in performing outsize character, smaller-scale portraiture, and dexterous musical numbers make her ideal for a comedy-variety program. Jesse Hassenger, Vulture, 10 May 2024 Sandra Oh and Robert Downey Jr. Creators: Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, from the book by Viet Thanh Nguyen But two things can be true: Downey’s performance in The Sympathizer can be saluted as a dexterous feat of actorly gymnastics. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Apr. 2024 The digitally dexterous workforce is highly analytical, collaborative, and nimble. Mark A. Cohen, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2024 Digital transformation and generative AI have heightened the stakes and accelerated the urgency of identifying, engaging, upskilling, advancing, and retaining an agile, digitally dexterous, purpose driven, team oriented, outcome focused workforce. Mark A. Cohen, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2024 See all Example Sentences for dexterous 

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

Word History

Etymology

Latin dextr-, dexter on the right side, skillful

First Known Use

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

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Dictionary Entries Near dexterous

Cite this Entry

“Dexterous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dexterous. Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

dexterous

adjective
dex·​ter·​ous
variants also dextrous
1
: mentally skillful and clever : expert
her dexterous handling of the problem
2
: done with skill
a dexterous maneuver
3
: skillful with the hands
dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

Medical Definition

dexterous

adjective
dex·​ter·​ous
variants also dextrous
1
: skillful and competent with the hands
2
: mentally adroit and skillful
dexterously adverb
dexterousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on dexterous

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