adjective, deft·er, deft·est.

dexterous; nimble; skillful; clever: deft hands; a deft mechanic.

Origin of deft

1175–1225; Middle English; variant of daft
Related formsdeft·ly, adverbdeft·ness, nounun·deft, adjective

Synonym study Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for deft

Contemporary Examples of deft

Historical Examples of deft

  • And all this efflorescence of sacred splendour was created, little by little, by her deft fingers.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • At length he had hit on making a whistle—the only thing his clumsy fingers had ever been deft at.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • Are not my arms as strong, my hands as deft, my wits as keen, and my soul as true?

  • I am afraid that, deft as he was, he would have lost in a fair race.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

  • It looked odd to see Constance with a needle, but she was deft with it.

    Miss Pat at Artemis Lodge

    Pemberton Ginther

British Dictionary definitions for deft



quick and neat in movement; nimble; dexterous
Derived Formsdeftly, adverbdeftness, noun

Word Origin for deft

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

Word Origin and History for deft

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