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

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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 But the company has also displayed dexterous management. The Economist, "A nimble beast Walmart ekes out an edge in groceries during the pandemic," 23 May 2020 What might ultimately save Asian elephants is the knowledge that if these giant creatures ever stop ambling across their continent—with their wise eyes, their dexterous trunks and their curious minds—humanity will be the less for it. Justin Mott, Smithsonian Magazine, "Researchers Are Learning How Asian Elephants Think—In Order to Save Them," 19 Mar. 2020 Kevin Fujii/Houston Chronicle Eric Taylor, a relatively unknown Texas singer-songwriter revered by his more celebrated peers for his painterly lyrics and dexterous finger-style guitar playing, died on March 9 in Austin. Bill Friskics-warren, New York Times, "Eric Taylor, Poetic Texas Singer-Songwriter, Is Dead at 70," 15 Mar. 2020 His first albums, built on country blues foundations, shook with dexterous picking and a voice that keened and yipped and roared. Brendan Fitzgerald, Longreads, "“I miss my body when it was ferocious” The Transfiguration of Paul Curreri," 14 Mar. 2020 Returning cast members Alex Bellisle, Carisa Barreca, Katie Caussin and Kazi Jones remain dexterous comedic performers. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, "Second City returns to Washington with familiar gifts in ‘She the People’ and ‘Love, Factually’," 13 Dec. 2019 The firm tapered brush makes for a dexterous application, even with shaky hands. 2. Taylore Glynn, Marie Claire, "The Ultimate Guide to Gorgeous Nails," 10 Feb. 2020 But what happens if your boss replaces them with sophisticated software or dexterous machines—ones that perform the same tasks for less money (at least over the long run) and contribute nothing in payroll taxes? Richard Rubin, WSJ, "The ‘Robot Tax’ Debate Heats Up," 8 Jan. 2020 Philip Billing hasn't looked at all out of place following his arrival from Huddersfield Town, while the highly-physical, surprisingly-dexterous Jefferson Lerma continues to thrive on these shores. SI.com, "Ranking All 20 Premier League Midfields From Worst to Best," 18 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for dexterous

Time Traveler

The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

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Statistics for dexterous

Last Updated

7 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dexterous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dexterous. Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for dexterous

dexterous

adjective
How to pronounce dexterous (audio)

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

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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

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