- mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.
- superficially skillful, witty, or original in character or construction; facile: It was an amusing, clever play, but of no lasting value.
- showing inventiveness or originality; ingenious: His clever device was the first to solve the problem.
- adroit with the hands or body; dexterous or nimble.
- Older Use.
Origin of clever
SynonymsSee more synonyms for clever on Thesaurus.com
- displaying sharp intelligence or mental alertness
- adroit or dexterous, esp with the hands
- smart in a superficial way
- British informal sly; cunning
- (predicative; used with a negative) dialect healthy; fit
Word Origin and History for unclever
1580s, "handy, dexterous," apparently from East Anglian dialectal cliver "expert at seizing," perhaps from East Frisian klüfer "skillful," or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," and perhaps influenced by Old English clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity). Or perhaps akin to Old Norse kleyfr "easy to split" and from a root related to cleave "to split." Extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.
This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning. [Johnson, 1755]
The meaning has narrowed since, but clever also often in old use and dialect meant "well-shaped, attractive-looking" and in 19c. American English sometimes "good-natured, agreeable." Related: Cleverly; cleverness.