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[deft] /dɛft/
adjective, defter, deftest.
dexterous; nimble; skillful; clever:
deft hands; a deft mechanic.
Origin of deft
1175-1225; Middle English; variant of daft
Related forms
deftly, adverb
deftness, noun
undeft, adjective
Synonym Study
See dexterous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for deft
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And all this efflorescence of sacred splendour was created, little by little, by her deft fingers.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • At length he had hit on making a whistle—the only thing his clumsy fingers had ever been deft at.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • Are not my arms as strong, my hands as deft, my wits as keen, and my soul as true?

    The Trampling of the Lilies Rafael Sabatini
  • I am afraid that, deft as he was, he would have lost in a fair race.

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • It looked odd to see Constance with a needle, but she was deft with it.

    Miss Pat at Artemis Lodge Pemberton Ginther
British Dictionary definitions for deft


quick and neat in movement; nimble; dexterous
Derived Forms
deftly, adverb
deftness, noun
Word Origin
C13 (in the sense: gentle): see daft
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 deft

Old English gedæfte "mild, gentle," differentiated in Middle English into daft (q.v.) and this word, via sense of "apt, skillful, adept." Cognate with Gothic gadaban "to be fit," Old Norse dafna "to grow strong," Dutch deftig "important, relevant."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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