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


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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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 Southern Fishing News is now offering a free online class in finesse fishing for bass, designed primarily for high-school bass clubs but very helpful to anyone who wants to learn this effective tactic. Frank Sargeant, al, "Finesse Fishing Online Class," 13 Jan. 2021 That style was influenced by the austere finesse of Japanese cooking and known, at its extreme, for tiny portions on huge white plates, a caricature in which the Troisgros brothers never indulged. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, "Pierre Troisgros, Renowned French Restaurateur, Dies at 92," 25 Sep. 2020 The Nazis tended to make their argument not by finesse but by scale. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, "Inside the U.S. Army’s Warehouse Full of Nazi Art," 4 Jan. 2021 These are complicated dishes that take time, finesse, intuition and care. Lee Ann Kim Community Voices Contributor, San Diego Union-Tribune, "In 2020, sad thoughts about mortality turned into bonding with my mother over her favorite Korean dishes," 24 Dec. 2020 Don’t look for toasty, brioche notes; this is a wine of filigree and finesse. Washington Post, "This savory, silky $14 pinot noir is worth stocking up on," 4 Dec. 2020 Obi Toppin, 6-9, sophomore, Dayton: Can finish with both force and finesse at the rim, with ability to drive and kick, as well, as facilitate. Ira Winderman,, "Heat potentially looking to go deep in NBA draft | Rating the field at power forward," 15 Nov. 2020 Laying your baby hairs properly takes some serious finesse. Kiana Murden, CNN Underscored, "42 gifts that support BIPOC-owned brands this holiday season," 16 Dec. 2020 Good Souls Better Angels is a reflection on this moment with fire and finesse. Andrew Unterberger, Billboard, "The 25 Best Rock Albums of 2020: Staff Picks," 15 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Folklore nevertheless worked for a few reasons: the quality of the writing, the frequent injections of Antonoff’s rock energy, and the strong efforts to finesse Dessner’s sonic wallpaper into cinema. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Taylor Swift Could Use an Editor," 15 Dec. 2020 Horn was pushed out by Time Warner management in 2011, at age 68, to make way for younger leaders, and the next year would find a new act at Disney, which needed his diplomacy skills to finesse its own talent relations after a rocky period. Washington Post, "For the entertainment industry, HBO Max move is causing peak upset," 9 Dec. 2020 In the team’s balanced attack, the 6-foot, 275-pound Lusk dominates with a combination of power and finesse whether run blocking or protecting the quarterback. Katherine Fominykh,, "Baltimore-area high school football preview: Season to kick off in abbreviated fashion," 4 Nov. 2020 Leaving statutes vague, however, has been a way for Congress to finesse fights. John Schwartz, New York Times, "By Calling Climate Change ‘Controversial,’ Barrett Created Controversy," 15 Oct. 2020 That said, Audacity doesn't provide the same quality or finesse that a more advanced audio editor, such as Adobe Audition or Hindenburg, does. David Nield, Popular Science, "Why pay for Office and Photoshop when you can get these alternatives for free?," 30 Jan. 2018 So, with the brand-new eighth-gen iPad (starting at $329), Apple continues to finesse it. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "The Eighth-Gen iPad hits a home run with a faster processor and an approachable design," 24 Sep. 2020 Investment firms Three Hills Capital Partners and Apax Partners are also working on a proposal to provide fresh capital to the Italian league and have asked for more time to finesse their late bid, Bloomberg News has reported. David Hellier,, "Private Equity Faces Uphill Battle in Italian Soccer Pursuit," 7 Sep. 2020 That’s more time for new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr., to work with Morgan and the other quarterbacks and finesse the offense. Megan Ryan, Star Tribune, "P.J. Fleck says delay of season should improve Gophers' depth," 18 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for finesse

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for finesse

Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Finesse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for finesse


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.



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

More from Merriam-Webster on finesse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for finesse

Nglish: Translation of finesse for Spanish Speakers

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