[dek-struhs, -ster-uhs]


skillful or adroit in the use of the hands or body.
having mental adroitness or skill; clever.
done with skill or adroitness.

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

Synonyms for dexterous

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.

Antonyms for dexterous

1. clumsy. 2. inept. 3. awkward. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dexterously

Historical Examples of dexterously

  • They tell me the cautery, if dexterously applied, is better; but I have not tried it.

    The Fortunes Of Glencore

    Charles James Lever

  • He prepared his effects as studiously and almost as dexterously as Dumas himself.

    Views and Reviews

    William Ernest Henley

  • He dexterously avoided coming into contact with them in Italy.

    The Young Duke

    Benjamin Disraeli

  • He did the work speedily and dexterously, and then departed as silently as he had come.

    The River of Darkness

    William Murray Graydon

  • The candlelight glinted on the knife blade as he twisted it about dexterously.

British Dictionary definitions for dexterously




possessing or done with dexterity
a rare word for right-handed
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 dexterously



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper