adjective, clev·er·er, clev·er·est.

mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.
superficially skillful, witty, or original in character or construction; facile: It was an amusing, clever play, but of no lasting value.
showing inventiveness or originality; ingenious: His clever device was the first to solve the problem.
adroit with the hands or body; dexterous or nimble.
Older Use.
  1. suitable; convenient; satisfactory.
  2. good-natured.
  3. handsome.
  4. in good health.

Origin of clever

1175–1225; Middle English cliver, akin to Old English clifer claw, clife burdock. See cleavers
Related formsclev·er·ish, adjectiveclev·er·ish·ly, adverbclev·er·ly, adverbclev·er·ness, nouno·ver·clev·er, adjectiveo·ver·clev·er·ly, adverbo·ver·clev·er·ness, nounun·clev·er, adjectiveun·clev·er·ly, adverbun·clev·er·ness, noun

Synonyms for clever

Antonyms for clever

1. stupid. 4. clumsy. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cleverly

Contemporary Examples of cleverly

Historical Examples of cleverly

  • She had a wicked delight in the defeat of his strategy which she could cleverly conceal.

  • He had been cleverly exploited, but he could not see that any great harm had been done.

  • He was cleverly caught, though, before he could make any use of what he had stolen.

  • At these words, which she had so cleverly provoked, Felicite released her husband's arms.

  • She had disguised herself so cleverly that it was difficult to recognise her.

    An Orkney Maid

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

British Dictionary definitions for cleverly



displaying sharp intelligence or mental alertness
adroit or dexterous, esp with the hands
smart in a superficial way
British informal sly; cunning
(predicative; used with a negative) dialect healthy; fit
Derived Formscleverish, adjectivecleverly, adverbcleverness, noun

Word Origin for clever

C13 cliver (in the sense: quick to seize, adroit), of uncertain origin
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 cleverly



1580s, "handy, dexterous," apparently from East Anglian dialectal cliver "expert at seizing," perhaps from East Frisian klüfer "skillful," or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," and perhaps influenced by Old English clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity). Or perhaps akin to Old Norse kleyfr "easy to split" and from a root related to cleave "to split." Extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.

This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning. [Johnson, 1755]

The meaning has narrowed since, but clever also often in old use and dialect meant "well-shaped, attractive-looking" and in 19c. American English sometimes "good-natured, agreeable." Related: Cleverly; cleverness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper