9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[mas-ter-fuh l, 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
1300-50; Middle English; see master, -ful
Related forms
masterfully, adverb
masterfulness, noun
overmasterful, adjective
overmasterfully, adverb
overmasterfulness, noun
unmasterful, adjective
unmasterfully, adverb
Can be confused
masterful, masterly (see usage note at the current entry)
1. peremptory. 3. consummate, supreme; adept, expert, skilled, skillful, matchless.
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for masterful
  • Stories this well written demand art that is equally masterful.
  • In some cases, their efforts have been quite masterful.
  • From there the conversation continues in masterful contrapuntal style.
  • Its splendor lies partly in the masterful glazed tile work, the colors of which change subtly with the light.
  • Known to many as a scavenging species, hyenas are also masterful hunters.
  • It's talons were so masterful in its movements that it made barely a splash.
  • He was an innovative guitarist and a masterful showman who kept on playing well into his seventies.
  • Her disposition is a masterful one and her bearing always dignified.
  • He even suggests, with masterful understatement, that this might have practical implications.
  • Of course, the open-source community is masterful at the art of hyperbole.
British Dictionary definitions for masterful


having or showing mastery
fond of playing the master; imperious
Derived Forms
masterfully, adverb
masterfulness, noun
Usage note
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for masterful

c.1300, "fond of being a master," from master (n.) + -ful. Sense evolved through "having capabilities to command" (c.1400) to "characterized by a master's skill" (1610s). Related: Masterfully.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for masterful

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for masterful

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with masterful