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See more synonyms for deft on Thesaurus.com
adjective, deft·er, deft·est.
  1. dexterous; nimble; skillful; clever: deft hands; a deft mechanic.
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Origin of deft

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

Synonym study

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for deftly

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • She stood out in the corridor while this was deftly and swiftly done.

  • She guided him deftly back to music, to the opera, to the night of Iphigenia.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • He had taken his hat, and was smoothing it deftly with the palm of his hand.

    The Market-Place

    Harold Frederic

  • Yet even from this rebuff he managed to deftly extract a compliment.

    James Boswell

    William Keith Leask

  • He turned toward her; she accomplished that deftly, then glanced across at the clock.

    The Crimson Tide

    Robert W. Chambers

British Dictionary definitions for deftly


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

Word Origin

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 deftly


mid-15c., from deft + -ly (2).

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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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper