finesse

noun
fi·​nesse | \fə-ˈnes \

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Where previous OnePlus phones were stupidly fast but lacked finesse in their animations, the 6T gives a sensation of both speed and comfort. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "OnePlus 6T review: revised formula, same results," 29 Oct. 2018 While seasoned entertainers will host ravishing parties with an effortless finesse, the average and aspiring hostess-with-the-mostess will hesitantly take the wheel, and simultaneously brace for impact. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "A Celebrity Event Planner’s Secrets for the Best Holiday Party Ever," 10 Oct. 2018 For all the sublime refinement of Neymar’s dribbling and passing, his acting this month has displayed all the finesse and subtlety of a reality show dust-up. Andrew Keh, New York Times, "Neymar and the Art of the Dive," 5 July 2018 Vintage ceramics from Pietre are one of the many collections that fuel the finesse of Bonazzi’s Fort Greene brownstone. Carmen Rosy Hall, Vogue, "How Set Designer Noemi Bonazzi Cultivates Effortless Italian Style," 25 Apr. 2018 Among the breakout superstars of the 2018 Winter Olympics was 17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim, whose Valley Girl vibe almost belied her technical gold-medal finesse and, by all accounts, indefatigable work ethic. Mari Uyehara, GQ, "How Title IX Gave Rise to the Dad Fan," 11 June 2018 Boggs demonstrated her finesse when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act came before her committee. John Pope, NOLA.com, "'Grace was in her DNA, grace was in her steps, and heaven was in her eyes'," 1 Apr. 2018 With Monteagudo on the serve, Coburn sliced through their defense, showcasing both power and finesse – a wall with offense. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Matrka, Zinn take women's doubles title at The Met," 13 July 2018 Without taking a touch on Ronaldinho's through ball, Rivaldo opened up his body, allowing his left foot to take centre stage, curling the ball round Seaman with exquisite finesse. 1-1, game on. SI.com, "On This Day: 21st June - Ronaldinho Wonder Free-Kick Dumps England Out of 2002 World Cup," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

What was not a surprise was the on-screen chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Lively, a thought not lost on Feig (Bridesmaids), who managed to finesse some comedic charm into the housewife drama. Lauren Sanchez, Vogue, "Inside the World Premiere and Surreal After-Party for A Simple Favor With Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, and Henry Golding," 11 Sep. 2018 Trump, who has made a hard-line approach to immigration a centerpiece of his politics, has struggled at times to finesse the way his base and elements of the far right have, at times, been linked. Robert Costa, The Seattle Times, "Trump adviser Larry Kudlow hosted publisher of white nationalists at his home," 21 Aug. 2018 But Saarinen finessed the problem rather like corporate architects today finesse the problem of housing large, impersonal, often rapacious organizations in buildings that suggests transparency, openness and idealism. Philip Kennicott, kansascity, "St. Louis’ Gateway Arch emerges with new name, skeptical view of western expansion," 3 July 2018 The argument can easily be shifted, although players have not been able to finesse that to this point. 2. Andrew Brandt, SI.com, "How NFL and NBA Contracts Differ, and What NFL Players Can Do to Change It," 10 July 2018 But Saarinen finessed the problem rather like corporate architects today finesse the problem of housing large, impersonal, often rapacious organizations in buildings that suggests transparency, openness and idealism. Philip Kennicott, kansascity, "St. Louis’ Gateway Arch emerges with new name, skeptical view of western expansion," 3 July 2018 Using off-the-shelf components like 3D cameras and robotic arms with force sensors, the robots are able to differentiate between parts and assemble them with a dexterity and finesse elusive to most bots. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Finally, robots that can assemble your Ikea furniture," 23 Apr. 2018 But even with a unit that was working as Parrot designed it to, the Anafi lacks the refinement and finesse you get with DJI’s Mavic Air. Vjeran Pavic, The Verge, "Parrot Anafi drone review: flying high, but falling short," 2 July 2018 But Saarinen finessed the problem rather like corporate architects today finesse the problem of housing large, impersonal, often rapacious organizations in buildings that suggests transparency, openness and idealism. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "50 years later, the St. Louis Arch emerges with a new name and a skeptical view of western expansion," 26 June 2018

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

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 3 + -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

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Statistics for finesse

Last Updated

22 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for finesse

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

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More Definitions for finesse

finesse

noun

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on finesse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with finesse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for finesse

Spanish Central: Translation of finesse

Nglish: Translation of finesse for Spanish Speakers

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