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 Female participants did better with dexterous tasks. Brad Emons, Detroit Free Press, 18 Aug. 2021 The dexterous hovercraft leapfrogs all this, cutting the overall journey time in half. CNN, 13 Aug. 2021 Gift of Gab, the verbally dexterous rapper known as half of the Bay Area hip hip duo Blackalicious, has died. Tyler Aquilina,, 25 June 2021 Within weeks, Zola’s dexterous way with words online had inspired a legion of followers—and resulted in offers for adaptations off of social media—chief among them, a feature film deal with James Franco, which Zola accepted. Cady Lang, Time, 25 June 2021 Heaux Tales finds the singer at her most dexterous. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 11 June 2021 Yet Deane, while keeping his distance, can dissect with consummate delicacy the sublimely dexterous art of Elizabeth Bowen or the subversive ingenuity of James Joyce. Anna Mundow, WSJ, 4 June 2021 Jacqueline was teased as a cold Miranda Priestly pastiche, but with good writing and the dexterous work of Melora Hardin, she was revealed to be a firm but kind mentoring force in the lives of the core trio. Bolu Babalola, Harper's BAZAAR, 27 May 2021 Dolphins are known for their intelligence, promiscuity and absurdly dexterous penises. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Nov. 2020

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

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The first known use of dexterous was in 1609

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Last Updated

29 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dexterous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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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 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


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