Definition of clever in US English:



  • 1Quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas; intelligent.

    ‘a clever and studious young woman’
    ‘how clever of him to think of this!’
    • ‘As you may have gathered, fairies are among the most powerful and clever of species.’
    • ‘‘It was very clever of him to go for part-ownership of Canova's The Three Graces,’ says another critic.’
    • ‘Pretension was compounded by the most clever of the cultured barbarians who pretended to be above it all.’
    • ‘I thought that was clever of me, more clever than usual that is, haha.’
    • ‘How clever of the teacher, she thought, to get us so caught up in manipulating our legs into that position so that we were quiet for her for a little while.’
    • ‘Jo was clever, cunning, intelligent, very quick, and could see things which other people couldn't.’
    • ‘While being quick and clever gives you an edge, this is one of those instant karma weeks - so if you don't want any, don't dish any.’
    • ‘He was of sturdy stock and clever of mind that saw him later in his career in the command of a privateer.’
    • ‘I had to admit, she was either one of the coolest grown-ups I had ever met, or one of the most clever of criminal accomplices.’
    • ‘I think we're all to blame but we're to blame because we weren't clever enough to understand how the system worked.’
    • ‘And how clever of them to choose an author who is so wildly popular with the young.’
    • ‘Yes and I must say it was quite clever of you to figure that out so easily.’
    • ‘It was clever of Fry to write a film score decades before the invention of the motion picture.’
    • ‘It was something smart, smart enough to fool even Amelia, who was the most clever of the three of them.’
    • ‘As far as the local cat population in Elstow is concerned, how clever of them to wait until Mr Suter is away on holiday before they decide to devastate his garden.’
    • ‘This was an interesting idea and it was very clever of Serocath to come up with it.’
    • ‘How clever of you to have worked out at this late date that my name is Scott.’
    • ‘It seems to me it was quite clever of the union to refrain from publicly backing their stance, as this would have opened them up to legal action.’
    • ‘How clever of Dobbies to fly him in to its biggest centres to meet his devotees.’
    • ‘It was clever of her not to have asked ‘Do you want to come?’’
    intelligent, bright, smart, brilliant
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    1. 1.1 Skilled at doing or achieving something; talented.
      ‘he was clever at getting what he wanted’
      ‘she is clever with her hands’
      • ‘It was jolly clever of Spalding Gray to be able to sit down like that for hours.’
      • ‘Being clever with a cleaver does not run in his family.’
      • ‘There aren't many that can compete physically with big Brian Irvine but Flo is so clever with the ball at his feet that the need for a physical contest is almost non-existent.’
      • ‘You are youthful, intense and clever at work to achieve goals and success in a tough assignment.’
      • ‘People became so clever at avoiding the tax, revenue fell and the law was tightened.’
      • ‘Women have become incredibly clever at explaining these choices in ways that barely mention social pressures or male desires.’
      • ‘She enjoys disjunction, and she's also very clever with film technology.’
      • ‘Fascism came to be led by the brutal, the ignorant and the criminal - men who were clever at exploiting the irrationality of the masses.’
      • ‘He proved clever with traps and caught a hare or two every other day, the basis of a flavorsome if somewhat monotonous stew.’
      • ‘He's a good header of the ball and clever with it.’
      • ‘He's wise and he's very clever at the game and I think he's going into his testimonial season so it's working out fantastic for him.’
      • ‘Is he particularly clever at digging holes and burying the cash?’
      • ‘Or are the birds simply so clever at finding a carcass soon after the animal's death that its owner concludes they are the perpetrators?’
      • ‘Receivers are simply too clever at this level for that.’
      • ‘They're never overly clever with anything that they do, chord progressions and bass lines are hardly contrived.’
      • ‘Like Mamie, she had studied fashion design and was always clever with her hands.’
      • ‘Seasoned watchers of him will attest to his annoying habit of fading out of games and trying to be too clever at times.’
      • ‘He was a confident trickster and was very clever at getting people to take his side.’
      • ‘You can buy an optional i-Mon VFD to show through the front of the case, or you can hack in a Matrix Orbital display if you're clever with the screws.’
      • ‘What makes them artists is when they can create pictures and you can visualize what they're saying and they can play around with the rhymes and be clever with words.’
      skilful, dexterous, adroit, deft, nimble, nimble-fingered, handy, adept
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    2. 1.2 Showing intelligence or skill; ingenious.
      ‘a simple but clever idea for helping people learn computing’
      • ‘It probably seemed clever at the time but, five years on, hung without any sense of history or irony in a big official institution, it feels almost depressing.’
      • ‘I saw nothing original or clever or ingenious about this film.’
      • ‘It reminds you how clever, how witty, how well thought out the song is.’
      • ‘This has got to be one of the most clever of e-mails.’
      • ‘There are cataclysmic family secrets that are revealed, and a Shakespearean finale that is a clever spin on the original.’
      • ‘What was needed therefore was a superlative comeback - original, clever without pretentiousness and above all very funny.’
      • ‘Its initial premise - follow a single murder case for an entire season - was clever at the time.’
      • ‘A paid designer will use all sorts of clever artistic tricks - you now know that you will lose clients that way.’
      • ‘According to Strong AI, a computer may play chess intelligently, make a clever move, or understand language.’
      • ‘It was a clever and original fundraising idea that offered people a challenge.’
      • ‘The originals used a clever little insert that slipped right inside a .45 magazine.’
      • ‘However, while this approach is clever at first, it wears out its welcome before the film reaches its conclusion.’
      • ‘We must always remember that what lures people here is the prospect of original and clever ideas.’
      • ‘Such clever allusions in the original title must have been deemed too esoteric for potential buyers.’
      • ‘The art of the quick retort, the clever reply, the sharp tongue are things many of us wish we had more of.’
      • ‘Civil servants, accustomed to hiding behind walls of secrecy, might simply devise clever new ways to foil the public's right to know.’
      • ‘The game is not especially challenging, the hurdles one must overcome are not particularly original or clever, and I soon lost interest.’
      • ‘It was clever, original, surprisingly complex and - most importantly - was not manufactured like so much of our contemporary music.’
      • ‘This is supposed to be satirical, but it's neither original nor clever, and the effect of viewing this cheese wears off pretty quickly.’
      • ‘What gain is there in silencing another, through ridicule, for example, or the clever use of debating skills, if it is at the cost of truth?’
      shrewd, astute, sharp, acute, quick, sharp-witted, quick-witted
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    3. 1.3dated, informal usually with negative Sensible; well-advised.
      ‘it wasn't too clever, leaving Dolly alone’
      • ‘The view expressed by Mr. Winer, and to a lesser extent Dr. Grant, is often considered very clever and sensible.’
      • ‘Then Chicken Little crying wolf won't look like such a clever strategy, will it?’
      • ‘This is not as clever as it sounds, because Teazers stocks a comprehensive range of men's deodorants in their bathrooms.’
      wise, sensible, prudent, politic, shrewd, astute, canny, sagacious, common-sense, commonsensical, sound, well advised, well judged, well thought out, considered, thoughtful, perceptive, discerning, clear-sighted, insightful, far-sighted, percipient, discriminating, informed, intelligent, enlightened, logical, rational
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  • too clever by half

    • informal Annoyingly proud of one's intelligence or skill and in danger of overreaching oneself.

      • ‘The theory is certainly instructive and clever, but many feel that it is too clever by half.’
      • ‘One must be clever, as long as one is not too clever by half.’
      • ‘The film is too clever by half and so beautifully played it doesn't matter.’
      • ‘But policymakers are too clever by half to grasp it.’
      • ‘In fact some of them are too clever by half, as you ought to know.’
      • ‘Although some critics have said Danny has only been too clever by half on Kaya, there is no question that he has proved his staying power.’
      • ‘Too often the band's lush harmonies and soothing guitars are accompanied by an annoying tendency to be too clever by half.’
      • ‘The only problem with such a bright Artificial Intelligence is that it would be too clever by half.’
      • ‘He has a tendency to be too clever by half, but no longer tries to let everybody know it.’
      • ‘It's the most sophisticated electorate in the land - and too clever by half.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘quick to catch hold’, only recorded in this period): perhaps of Dutch or Low German origin, and related to cleave. In the late 16th century the term came to mean (probably through dialect use) ‘manually skillful’; the sense ‘possessing mental agility’ dates from the early 18th century.