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[dek-struh s, -ster-uh s] /ˈdɛk strəs, -stər əs/
skillful or adroit in the use of the hands or body.
having mental adroitness or skill; clever.
done with skill or adroitness.
Also, dextrous.
Origin of dexterous
1595-1605; < Latin dexter right-hand, skillful + -ous
Related forms
dexterously, adverb
dexterousness, noun
nondexterous, adjective
nondexterously, adverb
nondexterousness, noun
undexterous, adjective
undexterously, adverb
undexterousness, noun
1. deft, nimble, handy. 1, 2. expert, apt, able, quick.
1. clumsy. 2. inept. 3. awkward.
Synonym Study
1, 2.Dexterous, adroit, deft, skillful, handy all imply facility and ease in performance. Dexterous and adroit both referred originally to right-handedness. Dexterous is still most often used to refer to manual or physical ability but can also refer to mental or social agility: a dexterous wood carver; dexterous management of a potentially embarrassing situation. Adroit implies cleverness or mental acuity, occasionally complex physical skill: an adroit politician; an adroit juggler. Deft suggests a light and assured touch, either physical or mental: deft manipulation of the sensitive controls, of public opinion. Skillful is the most general of these synonyms and can be substituted in most contexts for any of the foregoing, sacrificing only the overtones or connotations of each: a skillful performer. Handy applies mainly to physical skill, often achieved without formal training: handy with tools. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for dexterously
Historical Examples
  • They tell me the cautery, if dexterously applied, is better; but I have not tried it.

    The Fortunes Of Glencore Charles James Lever
  • He prepared his effects as studiously and almost as dexterously as Dumas himself.

    Views and Reviews William Ernest Henley
  • He dexterously avoided coming into contact with them in Italy.

    The Young Duke Benjamin Disraeli
  • He did the work speedily and dexterously, and then departed as silently as he had come.

    The River of Darkness William Murray Graydon
  • The candlelight glinted on the knife blade as he twisted it about dexterously.

    One Man's Initiation--1917 John Dos Passos
  • You observe how dexterously the device of the necklace is imitated.

    Fairy Fingers Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie
  • Mr. Flaxman dexterously continued the subject of the Elsmeres.

    Robert Elsmere Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • The other, unmoved, dexterously shifted a mouthful of tobacco.

    Mountain Blood Joseph Hergesheimer
  • The Doomsman caught it dexterously and fastened it on his breast.

    The Doomsman Van Tassel Sutphen
  • “Let me take it, father,” and he dexterously brought it off.

British Dictionary definitions for dexterously


possessing or done with dexterity
a rare word for right-handed
Derived Forms
dexterously, dextrously, adverb
dexterousness, dextrousness, noun
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 dexterously



c.1600, "convenient, suitable," formed in English from Latin dexter (see dexterity) + -ous. Meaning "skillful, clever" is from 1620s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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