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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 deftness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Linda slid down the side of the canyon with the deftness of the expert.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • The deftness with which he completed the task of laying bare the wound was notable.

    The Slave Of The Lamp Henry Seton Merriman
  • To-night Jim went into his kitchen and cooked his supper with all a woman's deftness.

    Country Neighbors

    Alice Brown
  • And Tamada at his work had all the deftness and some of the dignity of a surgeon.

    A Man to His Mate J. Allan Dunn
  • It would have just about as much delicacy and deftness and discriminations.

  • Gavan could but admire his own deftness in tossing a newspaper over the pistol.

    The Shadow of Life Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • Their deftness of hand, as I have many a time experienced to my cost, is remarkable.

    Wanderings in Patagonia

    Julius Beerbohm
British Dictionary definitions for deftness


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 deftness



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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