masterful

adjective
mas·​ter·​ful | \ ˈma-stər-fəl How to pronounce masterful (audio) \

Definition of masterful

1a : inclined and usually competent to act as master
b : suggestive of a domineering nature
2 : having or reflecting the power and skill of a master

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Other Words from masterful

masterfully \ ˈma-​stər-​fə-​lē How to pronounce masterfully (audio) \ adverb
masterfulness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for masterful

masterful, domineering, imperious, peremptory, imperative mean tending to impose one's will on others. masterful implies a strong personality and ability to act authoritatively. her masterful personality soon dominated the movement domineering suggests an overbearing or arbitrary manner and an obstinate determination to enforce one's will. children controlled by domineering parents imperious implies a commanding nature or manner and often suggests arrogant assurance. an imperious executive used to getting his own way peremptory implies an abrupt dictatorial manner coupled with an unwillingness to brook disobedience or dissent. given a peremptory dismissal imperative implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate. an imperative appeal for assistance

Masterful vs. Masterly: Usage Guide

Some commentators insist that use of masterful should be limited to its early "domineering" sense in order to preserve a distinction between it and masterly. The distinction is a modern one, excogitated by a 20th century pundit in disregard of the history of the word. Both words developed in a parallel manner but the earlier sense of masterly, equivalent to the "domineering" sense of masterful, dropped out of use. Since masterly had but one sense, the pundit opined that it would be tidy if masterful were likewise limited to one sense and he forthwith condemned use of masterful to mean "having mastery" as an error. This later sense of masterful, which is slightly older than the sense of masterly intended to replace it, has continued in reputable use all along; it cannot rationally be called an error.

Did You Know?

Some commentators insist that masterful must only mean "domineering," reserving the "expert, skillful" sense for masterly. The distinction is a modern one. In earlier times, the terms were used interchangeably, with each having both the "domineering" and "expert" senses. The "domineering" sense of masterly fell into disuse around the 18th century, however, and in the 20th century the famous grammarian H. W. Fowler decided that masterful should be similarly limited to a single meaning. He summarily ruled that the "expert" definition of masterful was incorrect. Other usage writers followed his lead. But the "expert" meaning of masterful has continued to flourish in standard prose in spite of the disapproval, and, considering the sense's long history, it cannot really be called an error.

Examples of masterful in a Sentence

His manner was masterful and abrupt. a masterful work of art He did a masterful job of staying out of trouble.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Kate is a masterful wielder of this kind of soft power. Jasmin Malik Chua, Vox, "Royal baby Archie will have a huge impact on Britain’s economy," 18 July 2019 Pablo Neruda Love Poems Neruda’s masterful, stirring poetry collection for the romantic in your life. The Editors, WSJ, "WSJ. Magazine’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide," 11 Feb. 2019 This is Hickman’s first Marvel comic in a few years after bringing his masterful Avengers and Fantastic Four runs to a head with Secret Wars. Christian Holub, EW.com, "5 comics to read this July: Reimagining classic concepts," 3 July 2019 The show, so unwilling to get sentimental and emotionally manipulate viewers, still tickles with its unapologetic and masterful embrace of the frivolous. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, "With ‘Seinfeld,’ the devilishness was in the details," 27 June 2019 Runners-up: INTERIORS Winner: La Mamounia, MarrakechThe iconic Marrakech hotel’s Moorish interiors feel even more sumptuous after Jacques Garcia’s masterful renovation. Gisela Williams And Ingrid Abramovitch, ELLE Decor, "The 2019 ELLE Decor Travel A-List," 26 June 2019 Robert Macfarlane has published five masterful books about walking and beautiful natural places. Rachel Riederer, Outside Online, "'Underland' Sends a Nature Writer Deep into the Earth," 25 June 2019 Credit to the show’s masterful plotting and all-around writing intelligence—the dialogue, in English, German and French, adds a touch of globalist color to things. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘Das Boot’ Review: By Land or by Sea," 13 June 2019 In a must win game for the Calabrians then fleeting chances of survival, Crotone produced a masterful display at the Ezio Scida stadium to topple Stefano Piolo's side. SI.com, "Inter vs Crotone Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More," 2 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'masterful.' 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 masterful

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for masterful

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

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More Definitions for masterful

masterful

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of masterful

: able to take control of people or situations
: very skillful

masterful

adjective
mas·​ter·​ful | \ ˈma-stər-fəl How to pronounce masterful (audio) \

Kids Definition of masterful

1 : tending to take control : displaying authority
2 : having or showing great skill a masterful sailor

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More from Merriam-Webster on masterful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for masterful

Spanish Central: Translation of masterful

Nglish: Translation of masterful for Spanish Speakers

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