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

Essential Meaning of finesse

: skill and cleverness that is shown in the way someone deals with a situation, problem, etc. She handled the interview questions with finesse.

Full 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


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

Frequently Asked Questions About finesse

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This is quite rich on the palate, yet there is a nice sense of finesse and charm, and ultimately, the wine is simply delicious! Tom Hyland, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 But the film’s shape-shifting transformation is also part of its ruthless finesse. Jake Coyle, Detroit Free Press, 4 Dec. 2021 Performances of this symphony are not rare; memorable performances of it are, and Cox showed his finesse with taut but unstrained pianissimos and consistently unflagging energy. Globe Staff,, 12 Nov. 2021 The designer showed off her fashion finesse dressed in a minimal black floor-length dress with a matching blazer and clutch plus a diamond cuff earring. Kaitlyn Frey,, 10 Nov. 2021 Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, who was known for his finesse as a musician, as well as his indifference to the trappings of success, has died at 77. Los Angeles Times, 6 Nov. 2021 Still, each shot ended the same way: Either the player couldn’t find her finesse or was foiled by Nielsen. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, 23 Oct. 2021 Its filmmaking finesse, meantime, feels liberating. Michael Phillips,, 7 July 2021 Baylor's sturdy 225-pound frame complemented his finesse. Richard Goldstien, Star Tribune, 23 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Chairman Jerome Powell last week sought to finesse that delicate trade-off by ratcheting up the rhetoric without taking any specific actions to contract the monetary base. Judy Shelton, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2021 The uninvited guests finesse their way through a security checkpoint staffed by uniformed Secret Service officers, according to congressional testimony by the agency’s director Mark Sullivan. CNN, 12 Dec. 2021 Interior designers Diane Schmunk and Emily Barry came up with a remodel to finesse every inch while fashioning a refreshing airy look. Andria Hayday, Better Homes & Gardens, 18 Oct. 2021 Success or failure will turn on the three leaders' ability to finesse standoffs over voting schedules as well as the contours of the package. John Harwood, CNN, 26 Sep. 2021 Descartes was always trying to finesse his arguments in order to avoid being burned alive, or otherwise being subject to harsh clerical treatment. Quanta Magazine, 30 Sep. 2021 Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the team’s two best players, prefer to barrel to the hoop rather than finesse a foul. Stefan Bondy,, 31 Oct. 2021 Tension balances finesse, and minerality cuts a slightly rich palate. Sara L. Schneider, Robb Report, 11 Oct. 2021 There were rules to the game, of course, ways to finesse a certain look and attitude. Jason Parham, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of finesse


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1742, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for finesse


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

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

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Last Updated

9 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Finesse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of finesse for Spanish Speakers


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