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

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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

Then Villanelle comes along with her finesse, her style, her lack of inhibition–everything Eve doesn’t have. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Killing Eve Isn't Your Average Mystery Series. Here’s How It Breaks the Mold," 5 Apr. 2018 This extra layer of information can be helpful to wine drinkers since white grapes tend to produce wines of greater finesse, while red grapes yield wines of greater richness. Marnie Old, Philly.com, "Great Wine Values: Anna de Codorníu Cava Reserva 'Blanc de Blancs - Brut'," 12 July 2018 Service was sometimes short on the timing and communication skills common to top-drawer establishments, though more finesse and personality emerged as the meal progressed. Tim Smith, baltimoresun.com, "Exceptional food, pleasant setting at Kings Contrivance Restaurant," 17 May 2018 Rick Nichols, the esteemed Inquirer food columnist emeritus, is always the Brewvi’s favorite curmudgeon, with a fondness for classic finesse and a sharp wit to keep the trendy pretenders in check. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "A panel of experts in beer and wit," 10 May 2018 Defenders, those big lugs with reputations for having the finesse of a station wagon, are in the middle of their offensive moment. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "To Premier League Defenders, Defending Is Only Half the Job," 20 Sep. 2018 Gonzalez’s kitchen showed some finesse with that zuppa, a generous helping of shellfish and calamari cooked just right in a delicate seafood broth tinted with tomato and basil. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "Jersey Shore restaurants offer tasty food options from Cape May to LBI," 29 June 2018 But wearing fragrance well requires a little more skill and finesse. Kari Molvar, Vogue, "5 Mistakes Most Women Make When Wearing Perfume—And How to Fix Them," 10 Dec. 2018 The right full-coverage foundation or finesse of a Beautyblender could be the difference between doing a little too much and a smoother, more natural-looking complexion. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "7 Mistakes You're Making When You Conceal Pimples," 1 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Nora Sourouzian’s Azucena grew steadily in strength and finesse as Sunday’s show went on, and baritone Michael Mayes made a vital, vivid di Luna. Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times, "Seattle Opera rises to the challenges of ‘Il Trovatore’ with 2 terrific casts," 14 Jan. 2019 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 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

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

12 Apr 2019

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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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