[ahrt-fuh l]
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  1. slyly crafty or cunning; deceitful; tricky: artful schemes.
  2. skillful or clever in adapting means to ends; ingenious: an artful choice of metaphors and similes.
  3. done with or characterized by art or skill: artful acting; artful repairs.
  4. Archaic. artificial.

Origin of artful

First recorded in 1605–15; art1 + -ful
Related formsart·ful·ly, adverbart·ful·ness, nounun·art·ful, adjectiveun·art·ful·ly, adverbun·art·ful·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for artful


  1. cunning or tricky
  2. skilful in achieving a desired end
  3. archaic characterized by skill or art
  4. archaic artificial
Derived Formsartfully, adverbartfulness, 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

Word Origin and History for artful

1610s, "learned, well-versed in the (liberal) arts," also "characterized by technical skill," from art (n.) + -ful. Meaning "skilled in adapting means to ends" is from 1739. Related: Artfully; artfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper