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>
masterful vs. masterly
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>
First Known Use of masterly
MASTERLY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of masterly for English Language Learners
: showing great skill : very skillful
MASTERLY Defined for Kids
Definition of masterly for Students
: showing exceptional knowledge or skill <a masterly performance>
Seen and Heard
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