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

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 Hall’s characters always have things to say and these episodes find the writer with lots to say and lots to address — the series continues to say those things with a dexterous, stinging, thickly accented voice all its own. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 June 2022 Bates could not have chosen a better partner for this SF Symphony Co-Commission and West Coast Premiere than the astoundingly dexterous pianist Daniil Trifonov. San Francisco Chronicle, 11 May 2022 All-wheel drive versions feature the larger pack and the additional motor up front, delivering a dexterous, potent, digitally managed 320 hp. Dan Neil, WSJ, 5 May 2022 In a world of increasing automation, machines are expected to perform more dexterous motions, explains Brent Wallace, a Ph.D. student at ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering who was involved in the work. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 2 May 2022 The band is expert at building tension by creating a simple but potent melody—Chassagne is especially dexterous on a synthesizer—escalating the volume, tamping up the rhythm, and facilitating a sudden, noisy release. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 18 Apr. 2022 The production, directed by Peter Richards with a dexterous hand, meticulously realizes Hnath’s unorthodox style. Charles Mcnultytheater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2022 To score those deals, Cyber Group invested not only in extensive R&D but also in a deft and dexterous territory-by-territory charm offensive. Ben Croll, Variety, 1 Apr. 2022 Edifying insights accompany Brands’ dexterous reconstruction of how U.S. policymakers made the strategy work. Daniel J. Samet, National Review, 27 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About dexterous

Time Traveler for dexterous

Time Traveler

The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About dexterous

Dictionary Entries Near dexterous




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dexterous

Last Updated

6 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dexterous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for dexterous


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


variants: also dextrous \ ˈdek-​st(ə-​)rəs How to pronounce dexterous (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

More from Merriam-Webster on dexterous

Nglish: Translation of dexterous for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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