Definition of finesse in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Impressive delicacy and skill:

    ‘orchestral playing of great finesse’
    • ‘Georgi's brilliant interpretative finesse in skilful performance is a delight throughout.’
    • ‘Tony Jaa is an utterly brilliant fighter, whose resilience and finesse as a martial-arts master is put to the test in this funny and punch-packed feature.’
    • ‘But the Bulldogs' goal-line defence was equally as impressive as their finishing finesse.’
    • ‘His skill and finesse in collecting and preparing specimens made this effort fruitful.’
    • ‘The firm was successful but better known for engineering expertise than design finesse.’
    • ‘She knew it was too heavy to swing with any great skill or finesse, but holding it ready brought her a greater sense of comfort.’
    • ‘She performs the hoopla-hoop on freezing ice with dexterity and finesse and is unarguably one of the greatest performers in her chosen field.’
    • ‘There is an inherently satisfying quality to sharing the gratification of skill, finesse and excitement with a substantial number of individuals.’
    • ‘The greatest of the salonnières governed their gatherings with remarkable skill and finesse, not only pleasing the participants but stimulating the emergence of new ideas.’
    • ‘What is unique to the art is that one did not use brute strength to overpower an opponent, but rather skill, finesse and flexibility.’
    • ‘He didn't just dance, he danced with finesse and mastery.’
    • ‘Lambie had moulded a side of experience and finesse and they were far more impressive than in recent weeks.’
    • ‘The Centurions continued to illustrate flair and finesse in attack,’
    • ‘How about good, clean, hard-hitting hockey that displays skill, speed and finesse?’
    • ‘The actors assimilate the cringe-worthy lines with great skill and finesse, so that the audience laughs rather than groans.’
    • ‘The winners are determined through skill, tactics and finesse.’
    • ‘It is a game of skill, finesse and intelligence.’
    • ‘And, on what could have been a difficult night, the Bulls proved they have many lines of attack and that they have skill and finesse to add to their undoubted power.’
    • ‘I'm fairly convinced that the contests would show the strength, intelligence, artistry and finesse of the American game and players are superior.’
    • ‘Those harsh wartime experiences deeply affected her playing - reviewers noted it had lost its polish and finesse - and she resolved to regain it.’
    skill, subtlety, expertise, flair, knack, panache, dash, flourish, elan, polish, adroitness, skilfulness, adeptness, artistry, art, artfulness, virtuosity, mastery, genius
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    1. 1.1 Great subtlety and tact in handling or manipulating people or difficult situations:
      ‘clients want advice and action that calls for considerable finesse’
      • ‘Winning and keeping control of an empire here would require finesse and tact, brutality and astuteness.’
      • ‘My father carries on talking in this gentle voice, and with the wisdom of hindsight, I can see now that he has prepared for this carefully, and is handling the situation with great finesse and delicacy.’
      • ‘That's the kind of remark that requires finesse, and only someone like Sy could have pulled it off without getting physically hurt.’
      • ‘When it took control, it promised a global stewardship purring with gravity, finesse and farsightedness.’
      • ‘The situation will call for the exercise of an exceptional degree of diplomatic finesse.’
      • ‘Handle issues with finesse, and you and the crew could come out closer.’
      • ‘The elegance of the juxtapositions, presented with utmost tact and finesse, allowed associations to seep into our minds almost unbidden.’
      • ‘Russian nationalism had grown in the 1930s, but had been handled with some finesse.’
      • ‘She showed finesse and rosy-faced sophistication.’
      • ‘Obviously the clan is upset, and again, if you ask me, I think it's being handled with a certain lack of finesse.’
      • ‘If this team had shown even a tiny bit of real diplomatic and tactical finesse during the last three years I might think that's what they were doing.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, this message is delivered with such a lack of finesse and tact that it feels like the proverbial sledgehammer is trying to pound the message into the audience.’
      • ‘Although he had irked her so, she had to admit he handled her with such finesse that aroused her admiration.’
      • ‘And I learnt from my Parsi connections through marriage that death and sorrow can be handled with so much finesse, so much dignity.’
      • ‘Kumar's diplomatic finesse wins him high marks from the board.’
      tact, tactfulness, discretion, diplomacy, delicacy, sensitivity, discernment, perceptiveness, prudence, judgement, consideration
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  • 2(in bridge and whist) an attempt to win a trick with a card that is not a certain winner, typically by playing it as the third card in a trick in the hope that any card that could beat it is in the hand of the opponent who has already played.

    • ‘To do its job, a test needs to be absolutely fair and rigorous, incapable of being finessed, and externally moderated.’
    • ‘It would be unwise for West to lead from either of his 3x suits (not knowing that partner has the aces), and West hopes to take a finesse in cups later.’
    • ‘Advocates were either unaware of the magnitude of possible complications or had their perception thereof narrowed and/or finessed by ideologically driven a priori beliefs, and so on.’
    winning move, trick, stratagem, ruse, manoeuvre, scheme, artifice, machination, bluff, wile
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  • 1Bring about or deal with (something) by using great delicacy and skill:

    ‘Karen spent ten months finessing the financing for the property’
    • ‘He's a bedroom wizard, finessing the ragged street sounds of garage and hip hop into sleek, clipped cyber-beats; employing everything from maracas to car alarms in his percussive quest.’
    • ‘Fob him off with a decent second-string role and he'll play it like a maestro, often finessing the film out from under its star.’
    • ‘He took one simple plot and finessed it in very different ways within the chapters and, particularly, between the two halves.’
    • ‘Only a few top players are able to finesse a victory in such a situation.’
    • ‘It takes a measure of artistic fortitude to lovingly depict the ordinary, and ample skill to finesse it into quietly seductive works of art.’
    • ‘The plain fact is that he should have gone to Shanghai personally to finesse the deal with the car makers.’
    1. 1.1North American Slyly attempt to avoid blame or censure when dealing with (a situation or problem):
      ‘despite the administration's attempts to finesse its mishaps, the public remained wary’
      • ‘It appears that the administration will attempt to finesse this problem by the blatant expedient of pretending the borrowing never happened.’
      • ‘His frantic attempts to finesse the withdrawal failed, and have been shown up as cynical attempts to gain political advantage for himself when he should have been trying to help the country instead.’
      • ‘Some interpreters attempt to finesse the problem, claiming that it is irrelevant.’
      • ‘The problem of the legitimately dependent can not be finessed or argued away.’
      • ‘As a measure of character, also consider how he finessed the problem of appeasing tree-huggers while avoiding offence to countrymen whom the accords would have thrown out of work.’
      • ‘I want you to listen to what he told his team earlier this week, because he finessed a clearly, clearly dangerous situation.’
      bluff, manoeuvre, cheat, evade, trick, feign
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  • 2(in bridge and whist) play (a card) in the hope of winning a trick with it because any card that could beat it is in the hand of the opponent who has already played.

    • ‘There are three ways of winning tricks: by playing high cards or by finessing (the Venetian word for finesse is passera); by establishing long suits; by trumping suits in which one is void.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘purity, delicacy’): from French, related to fine.