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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 deftly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She stood out in the corridor while this was deftly and swiftly done.

  • She guided him deftly back to music, to the opera, to the night of Iphigenia.

    The Coryston Family Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • He had taken his hat, and was smoothing it deftly with the palm of his hand.

    The Market-Place Harold Frederic
  • Yet even from this rebuff he managed to deftly extract a compliment.

    James Boswell William Keith Leask
  • He turned toward her; she accomplished that deftly, then glanced across at the clock.

    The Crimson Tide Robert W. Chambers
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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