finesse

noun
fi·​nesse | \ fə-ˈnes How to pronounce finesse (audio) \

Definition of finesse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture trinkets of an extreme finesse— Arnold Rosin
2 : skillful handling of a situation : adroit maneuvering She handled the interviewer's questions with finesse.
3 : the withholding of one's highest card or trump in the hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played

finesse

verb
finessed; finessing

Definition of finesse (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to make a finesse in playing cards

transitive verb

1 : to play (a card) in a finesse
2a : to bring about, direct, or manage by adroit maneuvering finesse his way through tight places— Marquis James
b : evade, skirt finesse the hard issues

Keep scrolling for more

Finesse Started Out as a Noun

Verb

Finesse was a noun for more than 200 years before it became a verb. In the early 16th century the noun finesse was used to refer to refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture. Soon thereafter it developed the "skillful handling of a situation" meaning most common today. The first use of the verb finesse, however, was not as a corollary of one of these meanings. Instead, its meaning had to do with cards: if you finesse in a game like bridge or whist, you withhold your highest card or trump in the hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played. The other verb meanings of finesse developed within a few decades of this one.

Examples of finesse in a Sentence

Noun She handled the interview questions with finesse. maneuvered his opponent into checkmate with his customary finesse Verb He managed to finesse a deal through bargaining. She is just trying to finesse the issue.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The volatile and propulsive drummer for Cream and other bands who wielded blues power and jazz finesse and helped shatter boundaries of time, tempo and style in popular music. Bernard Mcghee, Twin Cities, "Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in 2019," 29 Dec. 2019 Weaving together intricate rhymes on the whim with finesse is a talent many haven't mastered, but Young M. A instantly proved her knack for the craft upon her rise to stardom. Glendon Francis, Billboard, "12 Black LGBTQ Artists Who Shaped the 2010s," 18 Dec. 2019 The volatile and propulsive drummer for Cream and other bands who wielded blues power and jazz finesse and helped shatter boundaries of time, tempo and style in popular music. Bernard Mcghee, The Denver Post, "Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in 2019," 16 Dec. 2019 Eric Speth, the maritime program manager at Jamestown, said Perry had established himself as his foundation’s go-to guy, who could sail a ship or fix a balky motor with equal finesse. BostonGlobe.com, "YSTIC, Conn. — He is the captain now of a majestic ship, a 106-foot wooden vessel that has sailed out of the yellowed pages of history and charted a historic course of its own.," 30 Oct. 2019 This was a museum-worthy piece, in every sense, worn with finesse. Vogue, "Last Week, Stars Brought Runway Fantasy Into the Real World," 7 Oct. 2019 This means that the acidity and fruity aromatic finesse should be preserved, giving way to a soft, dry finish with effervescent bubbles. Rachel King, Fortune, "The Champagnes and Sparkling Wines Worth Popping for All Your Holiday Festivities," 1 Dec. 2019 Sondland’s appearance has made their attempts at political finesse considerably more difficult. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, "Gordon Sondland’s Impeachment Testimony for the Ages," 24 Nov. 2019 The studying paid off for Kwon who’s finesse shots earned her a first set win. Edith Noriega, azcentral, "Gilbert Perry, Mesquite make badminton state championship history," 31 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Since the Ukrainian matter first became known, O’Halleran has tried to finesse an issue that was immediately seen as pointing to impeachment. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "Rep. Tom O'Halleran, a moderate Arizona Democrat, says he will vote to impeach Trump," 13 Dec. 2019 Programmable driving modes can finesse the power and suspension settings. Mark Maynard, San Diego Union-Tribune, "2019 VW Arteon: a cure for the common sedan," 6 Sep. 2019 Top-down signals might contextualize or finesse what is perceived, but nothing more. Anil K. Seth, Scientific American, "The Neuroscience of Reality," 27 Aug. 2019 This all comes at a time when the foreign affairs menu is adding hearty entrees that will take time, resources, and finesse to tackle. Tovin Lapan, Fortune, "Trump Administration Turnover Leads to Foreign Policy Turmoil," 23 Aug. 2019 Your immediate impulse might be to finesse with dummy’s queen. Frank Stewart, The Mercury News, "Bridge: Aug. 9, 2019," 9 Aug. 2019 Someone with rhetorical chops could finesse that evolution. Joe Garofoli, SFChronicle.com, "Five takeaways from the Democrats’ policy brawls," 31 July 2019 Since opinion polls imply that forcing people to give up their existing plans is a big negative, Harris is well advised to finesse the argument by leaving existing plans in place. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Kamala Harris joins the club with a solid ‘Medicare for all’ proposal," 29 July 2019 Accompanying the duo are several of Shiro Jin's ethnically and racially diverse minions, played with tremendous energy, if not always finesse, by Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Omar Garibay, Jared Joseph and Christina Sajous. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Broadway Bounty Hunter': Theater Review," 24 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'finesse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of finesse

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1742, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for finesse

Noun

Middle English, "fineness," borrowed from Middle French, "fineness, subtlety, ruse, trick," from fin fine entry 1 + -esse, suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives, going back to Latin -itia (with phonetic development as if from -icia) — more at -ice

Verb

derivative of finesse entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about finesse

Time Traveler for finesse

Time Traveler

The first known use of finesse was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about finesse

Statistics for finesse

Last Updated

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Finesse.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/finesse. Accessed 24 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for finesse

finesse

noun
How to pronounce finesse (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of finesse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: skill and cleverness that is shown in the way someone deals with a situation, problem, etc.

finesse

verb

English Language Learners Definition of finesse (Entry 2 of 2)

: to handle, deal with, or do (something) in an indirect and skillful or clever way

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on finesse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for finesse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with finesse

Spanish Central: Translation of finesse

Nglish: Translation of finesse for Spanish Speakers

Comments on finesse

What made you want to look up finesse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a feeling of well-being or elation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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