[ mas-ter-fuhl, mah-ster- ]
/ ˈmæs tər fəl, ˈmɑ stər- /


dominating; self-willed; imperious.
having or showing the qualities of a master; authoritative; powerful.
showing mastery or skill; masterly: a masterful performance.

Origin of masterful

Middle English word dating back to 1300–50; see origin at master, -ful

Related forms

Can be confused

masterful masterly (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

At an earlier time, both masterful and masterly had two senses: “having a commanding or domineering nature or manner” and “possessing the skill of a master.” The earliest sense of masterly, “having a commanding nature,” has been obsolete since the 18th century. Masterful continues to be used in all varieties of speech and writing in both senses, despite the protests of some who prefer that masterful be restricted to the sense “dominating or imperious”: The envoy's masterful behavior irritated the citizens. Few painters have produced so many masterful (or masterly ) portraits. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for masterful

British Dictionary definitions for masterful


/ (ˈmɑːstəfʊl) /


having or showing mastery
fond of playing the master; imperious

Derived Forms

masterfully, adverbmasterfulness, noun


The use of masterful to mean masterly as in a masterful performance, although common, is considered incorrect by many people
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