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[klev-er] /ˈklɛv ər/
adjective, cleverer, cleverest.
mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.
superficially skillful, witty, or original in character or construction; facile:
It was an amusing, clever play, but of no lasting value.
showing inventiveness or originality; ingenious:
His clever device was the first to solve the problem.
adroit with the hands or body; dexterous or nimble.
Older Use.
  1. suitable; convenient; satisfactory.
  2. good-natured.
  3. handsome.
  4. in good health.
Origin of clever
1175-1225; Middle English cliver, akin to Old English clifer claw, clife burdock. See cleavers
Related forms
cleverish, adjective
cleverishly, adverb
cleverly, adverb
cleverness, noun
overclever, adjective
overcleverly, adverb
overcleverness, noun
unclever, adjective
uncleverly, adverb
uncleverness, noun
1. ingenious, talented, quick-witted; smart, gifted; apt, expert. 4. skillful, agile, handy.
1. stupid. 4. clumsy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for cleverest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You're the cleverest creature anybody has ever met; they all say so.

  • We find out which is the cleverest boy by testing him at an examination.

    The Heart of Nature Francis Younghusband
  • He was the cleverest man I ever knew, and the best—except Taffy and the Laird and your dear son!

    Trilby George Du Maurier
  • He was very proud, and it cut him that the cleverest of the family should die in jail.

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • You're the cleverest rogue it has been my good fortune to meet this many a day.

    Hearts and Masks Harold MacGrath
  • He was the cleverest of Chuetas, and more generous than any of them.

    The Dead Command Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • How can we tell who is the greatest and the cleverest among all these shrieking braggarts?

    Clocks Jerome K. Jerome
  • Had she not been called the cleverest woman in Europe at one time?

    The Elusive Pimpernel Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • Though not a great man, Philip the Fair was one of the cleverest that ever lived.

    Ave Roma Immortalis, Vol. 1 Francis Marion Crawford
British Dictionary definitions for cleverest


displaying sharp intelligence or mental alertness
adroit or dexterous, esp with the hands
smart in a superficial way
(Brit, informal) sly; cunning
(predicative; used with a negative) (dialect) healthy; fit
Derived Forms
cleverish, adjective
cleverly, adverb
cleverness, noun
Word Origin
C13 cliver (in the sense: quick to seize, adroit), of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cleverest



1580s, "handy, dexterous," apparently from East Anglian dialectal cliver "expert at seizing," perhaps from East Frisian klüfer "skillful," or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," and perhaps influenced by Old English clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity). Or perhaps akin to Old Norse kleyfr "easy to split" and from a root related to cleave "to split." Extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.

This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning. [Johnson, 1755]
The meaning has narrowed since, but clever also often in old use and dialect meant "well-shaped, attractive-looking" and in 19c. American English sometimes "good-natured, agreeable." Related: Cleverly; cleverness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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