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 In another famed winemaking lineage, the Drouhin family has consistently produced wines of finesse and elegance since Maison Joseph Drouhin’s inception in 1880. Janice O'leary, Robb Report, 3 May 2021 Much of the Chilean interior is hot and dry and unsuitable for wines of finesse and freshness. Lauren Mowery, Forbes, 4 Mar. 2021 Many firms with roots in other worlds have failed in Hollywood, as the incoming firm lacks the finesse to manage the delicate relationships in the business. Washington Post, 26 May 2021 There was finesse that powered his game, not necessarily velocity., 23 May 2021 Playing with sparing vibrato, normal performance practice until early in the 20th century, the strings supplied sweet finesse. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 21 May 2021 As Levee, a cocky Jazz Age trumpeter with big dreams and a hair-trigger temper, Boseman delivers August Wilson’s arias of self-implosion with mesmerizing finesse. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 13 Apr. 2021 Normally an oven mitt is awkward and bulky, but this luxe leather model fits, well, like a glove, bringing finesse to open-fire cooking. Andrew Nelson, WSJ, 27 Mar. 2021 Finding a way for a company to pull this off without pulling the rug out from underneath itself requires finesse. Zenger News, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The big prize, though, wasn’t helping finesse the cultivation of these black truffles (also known as Périgord). Mark Ellwood, Robb Report, 12 May 2021 Which meant that the likes of McCarthy needed to, um, finesse their initial positions on Trump and January 6. Chris Cillizza, CNN, 10 May 2021 Thirteen years later, race is an issue that Mr. Biden can no longer finesse quite as easily. Lisa Lerer, New York Times, 24 Apr. 2021 In recent months, the Élysée has tried to finesse Mr. Macron’s handling of the virus crisis, distancing him when trouble has emerged and moving him closer when things have looked up. New York Times, 31 Mar. 2021 Winning a spot in the competition also meant Ortiz had a week of free remote design classes last summer and will have three more weeks this summer in which to finesse his design. Janice Neumann,, 29 Mar. 2021 Krutwig is an old-school big man who uses his footwork and finesse over jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 21 Mar. 2021 The Whigs could neither finesse the issue nor establish a unified opposition to it, and the Party dissolved. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, 8 Mar. 2021 Tahj Staveskie showed strong ball-handling, court awareness and finesse around the rim. Tyler J. Davis, Detroit Free Press, 14 Mar. 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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Time Traveler for finesse

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

13 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Finesse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for finesse



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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