mas·​ter·​ly | \ ˈma-stər-lē How to pronounce masterly (audio) \

Definition of masterly

1 : suitable to or resembling that of a master especially : indicating thorough knowledge or superior skill and power a masterly performance
2 : having the power and skill of a master she's masterly at description— Caroline Knapp

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Other Words from masterly

masterliness noun
masterly adverb

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.

Examples of masterly in a Sentence

She did a masterly job of organizing the conference. a masterly performance of one of the most difficult ballets in the repertory

Recent Examples on the Web

His previous book was a masterly study of the American empires of Britain and Spain. The Economist, "The siren call of separatism," 12 July 2018 Yet everything old seems new, starting not only with the stars, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, but with Mr. Cooper’s masterly direction of a genuinely big production. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "The Best Film of 2018: Love in Many Forms," 17 Dec. 2018 The novella has long been accounted the most masterly of his shorter fictions, largely because of its fusion of psychological realism and poetic atmosphere. Dan Hofstadter, WSJ, "Longing, Violence and Social Rank," 25 May 2018 And the filmmaker—a cold term for such a masterly artist—has portrayed every bit of it with perfect clarity and not the slightest whiff of preachment. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "Sublime Domesticity: The Intimate Grandeur That Is ‘Roma’," 21 Nov. 2018 Aciman’s novel is a masterly portrayal of arousal and the selves forged by passion. Joumana Khatib, New York Times, "Paperback Row," 19 Jan. 2018 Escobar’s masterly fielding mirrors the many forms of art supported by the Royals organization outside the lines of the baseball diamond. The Royals, kansascity, "Come for a Royals Game and Listen to Some Great Local Music (Sponsored)," 29 May 2018 Yet Green was a masterly player and composer who was uniquely diverse in his range of styles. Martin Johnson, WSJ, "‘Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970)’ and ‘Slick!—Live at Oil Can Harry’s’ by Grant Green Reviews," 17 Apr. 2018 Outrageous luxury is only one element in Koons’s masterly fusion of Pop content and minimalist aesthetics, which prophesied and still authorizes the cultural aplomb of our reconstituted, remorselessly ongoing gilded age. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "“Like Life” Shows Seven Hundred Years of the Body," 24 Mar. 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for masterly

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for masterly

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

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More Definitions for masterly



English Language Learners Definition of masterly

: showing great skill : very skillful


mas·​ter·​ly | \ ˈma-stər-lē How to pronounce masterly (audio) \

Kids Definition of masterly

: showing exceptional knowledge or skill a masterly performance

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More from Merriam-Webster on masterly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for masterly

Spanish Central: Translation of masterly

Nglish: Translation of masterly for Spanish Speakers

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characterized by aphorism

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