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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 deft
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Her quick eyes and deft fingers soon enabled her to do the work fully as well and as rapidly as Mrs. Hunt could do it.

    The Bishop's Shadow I. T. Thurston
  • And all this efflorescence of sacred splendour was created, little by little, by her deft fingers.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • The mercer bowed, with deft quickness executed the order, and proceeded to pack up the remainder of his goods.

    The White Lady of Hazelwood Emily Sarah Holt
  • At length he had hit on making a whistle—the only thing his clumsy fingers had ever been deft at.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • The poet usually compares his work to a car wrought and put together by a deft craftsman.

    A History of Sanskrit Literature Arthur A. MacDonell
British Dictionary definitions for deft


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 deft

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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