tact, address, poise, savoir faire mean skill and grace in dealing with others. tact implies delicate and considerate perception of what is appropriate.
questions showing a lack of tactaddress stresses dexterity and grace in dealing with new and trying situations and may imply success in attaining one's ends.
brought it off with remarkable addresspoise may imply both tact and address but stresses self-possession and ease in meeting difficult situations.
answered the accusations with unruffled poisesavoir faire is likely to stress worldly experience and a sure awareness of what is proper or expedient.
the savoir faire of a seasoned traveler
Do you change tack or tact?
Although some believe the word tact is short for tactics in phrases like "change tact" or "try a different tact," the correct word in such contexts is tack.
Tack in "change tack" and "try a different tack" means "a course or method of action especially when sharply divergent from that previously followed.”
Tack developed this meaning from its nautical applications. In sailing, tack can refer to the direction that a ship or boat is sailing in as it moves at an angle to the direction of the wind; or to a change from one direction to another direction; or to the distance traveled while sailing in a particular direction.
Tack developed the "course or method of action" meaning near the end of the 17th century; within 100 or so years, the phrase "change tack" was being used with the figurative meaning it has today.
While there is also a long history of people using tact where tack belongs, the use is widely shunned by usage guides, which means you might want to avoid it.
Did you know?
This word came to English directly from French (a Latin-based language), where it can also mean simply "sense of touch". Dealing with difficult situations involving other people can require the kind of extreme sensitivity that our fingertips possess. As Lincoln once said, "Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves", which doesn't usually come naturally. Someone tactful can soothe the feelings of the most difficult people; a tactless person will generally make a bad situation worse.
Examples of tact in a Sentence
Far from joining polite society like the debutants of the past, the kids gleefully rip through social graces, alienating friends and sacrificing tact all in the name of creating a VIP room filled with people too young to drive themselves home.— Ana Marie Cox, Time, 24 Apr. 2006The attorney general's lack of restraint and want of tact, on such an occasion … were clearly symptomatic of a considerable irritation, even rage.— Christopher Hitchens, Harper's, March 2001In society tact is the great art that makes for civility, for civilization …— Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadance, 2000He did not clear his throat with badinage, as timidity teaches us to do, nor did he waste his breath with tact.— Earl Shorris, Harper's, September 1997A man of gentle mien, he is inclined to use psychology and tact, rather than showboat heroics, when pursuing his murder inquiries.— Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review, 1 Jan. 1989
The peace talks required great tact on the part of both leaders.
I was surprised by his lack of tact. See More
Recent Examples on the WebYour inspector should ensure that window seals are in-tact, paint isn’t flaking, floors aren’t sagging, ceilings aren’t leaking, and baseboards are firmly attached to walls.
Ryan Serhant, Forbes, 13 May 2022 The good news for ASU faithful is that there are a lot of players back that saw considerable time because that unit was hardly ever in tact last season.
Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, 10 Apr. 2022 Disney has taken a different tact, continuing to make masks mandatory for guests 2 years old and older in indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status, including on rides, in indoor queues, and on transportation like the monorail.
Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 14 Feb. 2022 That followed a similar statement by Schlumberger late Friday, when the world’s biggest oilfield contractor immediately cut any new investment in one of the biggest oil-producing nations while leaving existing work there in tact.
David Wethe, Fortune, 20 Mar. 2022 The powder formula is filled with vitamin E and squalane, which, when applied topically, tact as a barrier, softening the skin and sealing in moisture.
Kayla Hui, Health.com, 21 Jan. 2022 While the base area emerged from the fire in tact, the resort has remained closed this season, with no reopening date scheduled.
Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Feb. 2022 Who has time for tact when the world is literally dying?
Devon Maloney, Vulture, 27 Sep. 2021 Use tact and a touch of psychology to bring any rebels into line and keep the domestic peace.
Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, 9 July 2021 See More
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tact.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.