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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 finesse Arnold 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 places Marquis 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.

Example Sentences

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
The finesse and power of Llera’s cooking has transitioned seamlessly from pop-up to restaurant. Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2022 Smith is more of a finesse player, who relies on three-point shooting and pull-up jumpers to mark his path. Morten Jensen, Forbes, 30 Apr. 2022 The problem with stock advice is that many of us, even in the disorientation of heartbreak, secretly regard ourselves as emotional sophisticates, capable of greater finesse and poise than the public at large. Shon Faye, Vogue, 20 Oct. 2022 The no-nonsense youngster Hawa — someone who doesn’t have time for pity nor for mindless blabber — is portrayed by Sania Halifa (a first-timer whom the director discovered via casting call) with remarkable finesse and lived-in authenticity. Tomris Laffly, Variety, 21 Sep. 2022 Instead, budgets need to be slowly rebalanced, with debt to GDP levels reined with finesse and the way that is done through the magic of inflation. Clem Chambers, Forbes, 8 Aug. 2022 Peele’s visual craft shows an admirable finesse and discretion. Justin Changfilm Critic, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2022 Gaining organizational acceptance of any new program or idea can be challenging and takes a certain finesse. Lisa Xu, Forbes, 21 June 2022 On a technical level, Federer reconciled the power of the modern game with the finesse of the wooden-racket era, creating an elegant style that was excitingly contemporary yet still felt like a loving homage to the sport’s past. Kevin Craft, The Atlantic, 15 Sep. 2022
How do leaders of the Christian nationalist movement attempt to finesse this contradiction between their red-white-and-blue patriotism and their support for the destruction of America’s democratic institutions? Katherine Stewart, The New Republic, 27 Oct. 2022 The human quality of these clothes gave Jones’s finesse a fresh sweetness. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 11 Sep. 2022 Fall and winter storms deliver the best swell on the shore, and Hammer, who’s well versed in cold-water surfing, will school you in pre-wave visualization and finesse your bottom turns to buttery smoothness. The Editors, Outside Online, 18 June 2021 Each tries to finesse that position given that as most Oaklanders can attest, the city isn’t working well. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Sep. 2022 Jawlines are notoriously tricky to cosmetically finesse. Kaitlin Clark, Allure, 25 Aug. 2022 Abdelmajid Tiloulout, a schoolteacher in Morocco, is getting plenty of tips on how to finesse his technique from a dean at Moraine Valley Community College thanks to a pilot program from the U.S. Peace Corps. Chicago Tribune, 9 Aug. 2022 As-is, without trying to finesse it or your parents. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 14 July 2022 And the Brembo brakes are a breeze to finesse and modulate; feeding on power and trimming it off over and over in an effortless rhythm that will make a run-of-the-mill driver feel like a virtuoso. Nick Czap, Robb Report, 8 July 2022 See More

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.

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 9 Dec. 2022.

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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