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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for deftly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This little plush cushion had been deftly fashioned for him, doubtless, by some veiled Fatmah or Zorah.

  • She rose and sat up, deftly winding her loosened hair about her head.

    Tessa Louis Becke
  • He remembered once being by while she replaced one of its ribs so deftly that he seemed to be looking on at a surgical operation.

    Tommy and Grizel J.M. Barrie
  • Marietta lifted the cover of the box and unrolled them deftly.

    Country Neighbors Alice Brown
  • Her eye lighting on a gourdful of water on the puncheon table, she tore a strip from her dress and washed and bound me deftly.

    The Crossing Winston Churchill
British Dictionary definitions for deftly


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 deftly

mid-15c., from deft + -ly (2).



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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