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fi·​nesse fə-ˈnes How to pronounce finesse (audio)
: refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture
trinkets of an extreme finesseArnold Rosin
: skillful handling of a situation : adroit maneuvering
She handled the interviewer's questions with finesse.
: 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


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finessed; finessing

intransitive verb

: to make a finesse in playing cards

transitive verb

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to finesse something?

If you finesse something, you handle it or do it skillfully and cleverly.

What is the difference between finesse and fineness?

Finesse refers to the skill and cleverness someone shows in the way they deal with a situation or problem. Fineness refers to a thing's quality of being fine—for example, the fineness of print (that is, how small the letters are) or the fineness of one wire in comparison to another (that is, how thin they are).

What are some synonyms of finesse?

Adroitness, cleverness, and dexterity are all synonyms of finesse.

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Set to be the style of autumn, and already popular with the street-style set, the executive look lends polish and finesse to the bob, which in its most traditional form is all one length. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 24 Sep. 2023 Both will feed crowds, and both reveal a finesse in which the sweet seafood inside the cleaved shells remains lush. Bill Addison, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2023 Still, the emotional weight of these sentimental storylines won’t overwhelm youngsters, as it’s all layered in with finesse. Courtney Howard, Variety, 18 Sep. 2023 That spark came from Malik Hamm, as the Baltimore native and City College graduate continued a solid training camp by showing both power and finesse in fighting past blockers. Timothy Dashiell, Baltimore Sun, 15 Aug. 2023 There also are questions about the Spain back line, which depends more on finesse than physicality. Frank Dell'apa,, 18 Aug. 2023 Tomas yells, arms motioning up and down the threshold his actor can’t seem to cross with sufficient finesse. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, 4 Aug. 2023 Mango 100% Linen Shorts $70 at Mango These are a pair of linen pants that will hug your legs with gentle finesse while still allowing the summer breeze to caress your skin, thanks to the 100% linen fabric. Maverick Li, Men's Health, 10 July 2023 The usual scarcities in modern screen comedy: visual finesse and some wit to go with the gross-out stuff. cleveland, 17 Aug. 2023
With power pitching harder to execute, will finesse pitching become more popular? Tyler Kepner, New York Times, 24 May 2023 Ortega's voluminous mascara finish featured several clusters of lashes that were longer than the rest, finessed with just the right amount of thickness. Chelsea Avila, Allure, 27 Feb. 2023 Wind tunnel tests and computer simulations helped the team finesse the formation: Five pacers positioned in front made a V, like the inverse of a flock of geese, while two additional racers ran slightly behind the marathoner, at his left and right flank. Popular Science, 24 Aug. 2023 However, as the New Yorker's Patrick Radden Keefe (who authored the story on which Painkiller is partially based) reports, a 2006 internal government memo which was made public in 2019 found that the way Wright finessed the Purdue application through the FDA approval process was unorthodox. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 19 Aug. 2023 This movie is a big, honking summer tent pole that has been finessed into a gulp of delectable entertainment that hits every single one of its marks. Willa Paskin, New York Times, 11 July 2023 Somehow, Brown, Cook and Chisolm finessed their way inside Columbia’s Township Auditorium to see their heroes, the Sugarhill Gang, in concert. Keith Murphy, Los Angeles Times, 7 Aug. 2023 Twelve ample dancers lounged in various states of undress, finessing their makeup and cutting up about strip lashes and thongs. Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2023 Some locations are fixed—think, Ferrari’s factory circuit in Fiorano, Italy—while others visit locales like the Dolomites or the Arctic Circle, where maneuvering on ice and snow can help finesse the finer points of precision driving. Basem Wasef, Robb Report, 7 July 2023 See More

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

Word History



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


derivative of finesse entry 1

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1742, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

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


Dictionary Entries Near finesse

Cite this Entry

“Finesse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
fi·​nesse fə-ˈnes How to pronounce finesse (audio)
: skillful or delicate handling or artistry


2 of 2 verb
finessed; finessing
: to bring about a result by finesse

More from Merriam-Webster on finesse

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