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[deft] /dɛft/
adjective, defter, deftest.
dexterous; nimble; skillful; clever:
deft hands; a deft mechanic.
Origin of deft
1175-1225; Middle English; variant of daft
Related forms
deftly, adverb
deftness, noun
undeft, adjective
See dexterous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for deftly
  • Each is a deftly woven tale of corruption and desperation.
  • When an object is partially hidden, the brain deftly reconstructs it .
  • He repeated the exercise with a mango, deftly avoiding the large flat pit.
  • It has skilfully taken advantage of globalisation, deftly responding to changing markets and transport routes.
  • It is a series of lively stories, full of first-hand reporting, deftly woven together.
  • The choreography moves deftly from quiet pantomime to vaudeville razzmatazz.
  • In both cases the communication was handled deftly and with praise.
  • He dares him to a fight and taunts him so deftly that tears come.
  • Filmmakers who can deftly change moods are treasures and even marvels.
  • They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor.
British Dictionary definitions for deftly


quick and neat in movement; nimble; dexterous
Derived Forms
deftly, adverb
deftness, 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
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Word Origin and History for deftly

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



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."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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