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 cleverness

Contemporary Examples of cleverness

Historical Examples of cleverness

  • Often enough these innovations were not due to the cleverness of man's brain.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • After all, Mary was only a woman, despite her cleverness, and with all a woman's timidity.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "That's just where your cleverness will come in," suavely answered Crane.


    W. A. Fraser

  • And by Jupiter, with a kind of cleverness in him too that would astonish you!'

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • This woman enjoyed the same sort of exultation in her own cleverness.

    Roden's Corner

    Henry Seton Merriman

British Dictionary definitions for cleverness



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 cleverness



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