• synonyms


[dek-struhs, -ster-uhs]
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  1. skillful or adroit in the use of the hands or body.
  2. having mental adroitness or skill; clever.
  3. done with skill or adroitness.
  4. right-handed.
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Also dextrous.

Origin of dexterous

1595–1605; < Latin dexter right-hand, skillful + -ous
Related formsdex·ter·ous·ly, adverbdex·ter·ous·ness, nounnon·dex·ter·ous, adjectivenon·dex·ter·ous·ly, adverbnon·dex·ter·ous·ness, nounun·dex·ter·ous, adjectiveun·dex·ter·ous·ly, adverbun·dex·ter·ous·ness, noun


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1. deft, nimble, handy. 1, 2. expert, apt, able, quick.

Synonym study

1, 2. Dexterous, adroit, deft, skillful, handy all imply facility and ease in performance. Dexterous and adroit both referred originally to right-handedness. Dexterous is still most often used to refer to manual or physical ability but can also refer to mental or social agility: a dexterous wood carver; dexterous management of a potentially embarrassing situation. Adroit implies cleverness or mental acuity, occasionally complex physical skill: an adroit politician; an adroit juggler. Deft suggests a light and assured touch, either physical or mental: deft manipulation of the sensitive controls, of public opinion. Skillful is the most general of these synonyms and can be substituted in most contexts for any of the foregoing, sacrificing only the overtones or connotations of each: a skillful performer. Handy applies mainly to physical skill, often achieved without formal training: handy with tools.


1. clumsy. 2. inept. 3. awkward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for dexterous



  1. possessing or done with dexterity
  2. a rare word for right-handed
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Derived Formsdexterously or dextrously, adverbdexterousness or dextrousness, 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 dexterous


c.1600, "convenient, suitable," formed in English from Latin dexter (see dexterity) + -ous. Meaning "skillful, clever" is from 1620s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper