Definition of clever in US English:

clever

adjectivecleverest, cleverer

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

    ‘a clever and studious young woman’
    ‘how clever of him to think of this!’
    • ‘It was something smart, smart enough to fool even Amelia, who was the most clever of the three of them.’
    • ‘I think we're all to blame but we're to blame because we weren't clever enough to understand how the system worked.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And how clever of them to choose an author who is so wildly popular with the young.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Yes and I must say it was quite clever of you to figure that out so easily.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Pretension was compounded by the most clever of the cultured barbarians who pretended to be above it all.’
    • ‘‘It was very clever of him to go for part-ownership of Canova's The Three Graces,’ says another critic.’
    • ‘This was an interesting idea and it was very clever of Serocath to come up with it.’
    • ‘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 Fry to write a film score decades before the invention of the motion picture.’
    • ‘As you may have gathered, fairies are among the most powerful and clever of species.’
    • ‘How clever of you to have worked out at this late date that my name is Scott.’
    • ‘Jo was clever, cunning, intelligent, very quick, and could see things which other people couldn't.’
    • ‘I thought that was clever of me, more clever than usual that is, haha.’
    • ‘He was of sturdy stock and clever of mind that saw him later in his career in the command of a privateer.’
    • ‘It was clever of her not to have asked ‘Do you want to come?’’
    intelligent, bright, smart, brilliant
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Skilled at doing or achieving something; talented.
      ‘he was clever at getting what he wanted’
      ‘she is clever with her hands’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was jolly clever of Spalding Gray to be able to sit down like that for hours.’
      • ‘He was a confident trickster and was very clever at getting people to take his side.’
      • ‘He's a good header of the ball and clever with it.’
      • ‘Being clever with a cleaver does not run in his family.’
      • ‘Seasoned watchers of him will attest to his annoying habit of fading out of games and trying to be too clever at times.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You are youthful, intense and clever at work to achieve goals and success in a tough assignment.’
      • ‘Receivers are simply too clever at this level for that.’
      • ‘Women have become incredibly clever at explaining these choices in ways that barely mention social pressures or male desires.’
      • ‘He proved clever with traps and caught a hare or two every other day, the basis of a flavorsome if somewhat monotonous stew.’
      • ‘People became so clever at avoiding the tax, revenue fell and the law was tightened.’
      • ‘They're never overly clever with anything that they do, chord progressions and bass lines are hardly contrived.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘She enjoys disjunction, and she's also very clever with film technology.’
      • ‘Like Mamie, she had studied fashion design and was always clever with her hands.’
      • ‘Is he particularly clever at digging holes and burying the cash?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fascism came to be led by the brutal, the ignorant and the criminal - men who were clever at exploiting the irrationality of the masses.’
      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’
      • ‘However, while this approach is clever at first, it wears out its welcome before the film reaches its conclusion.’
      • ‘This is supposed to be satirical, but it's neither original nor clever, and the effect of viewing this cheese wears off pretty quickly.’
      • ‘This has got to be one of the most clever of e-mails.’
      • ‘Its initial premise - follow a single murder case for an entire season - was clever at the time.’
      • ‘What was needed therefore was a superlative comeback - original, clever without pretentiousness and above all very funny.’
      • ‘It reminds you how clever, how witty, how well thought out the song is.’
      • ‘A paid designer will use all sorts of clever artistic tricks - you now know that you will lose clients that way.’
      • ‘It was clever, original, surprisingly complex and - most importantly - was not manufactured like so much of our contemporary music.’
      • ‘The game is not especially challenging, the hurdles one must overcome are not particularly original or clever, and I soon lost interest.’
      • ‘I saw nothing original or clever or ingenious about this film.’
      • ‘The originals used a clever little insert that slipped right inside a .45 magazine.’
      • ‘According to Strong AI, a computer may play chess intelligently, make a clever move, or understand language.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Civil servants, accustomed to hiding behind walls of secrecy, might simply devise clever new ways to foil the public's right to know.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We must always remember that what lures people here is the prospect of original and clever ideas.’
      • ‘There are cataclysmic family secrets that are revealed, and a Shakespearean finale that is a clever spin on the original.’
      • ‘Such clever allusions in the original title must have been deemed too esoteric for potential buyers.’
      • ‘It was a clever and original fundraising idea that offered people a challenge.’
      • ‘The art of the quick retort, the clever reply, the sharp tongue are things many of us wish we had more of.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The view expressed by Mr. Winer, and to a lesser extent Dr. Grant, is often considered very clever and sensible.’
      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
      View synonyms

Phrases

  • too clever by half

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

      • ‘In fact some of them are too clever by half, as you ought to know.’
      • ‘He has a tendency to be too clever by half, but no longer tries to let everybody know it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Too often the band's lush harmonies and soothing guitars are accompanied by an annoying tendency to be too clever by half.’
      • ‘But policymakers are too clever by half to grasp it.’
      • ‘It's the most sophisticated electorate in the land - and too clever by half.’
      • ‘The only problem with such a bright Artificial Intelligence is that it would be too clever by half.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The theory is certainly instructive and clever, but many feel that it is too clever by half.’

Origin

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.

Pronunciation

clever

/ˈklevər//ˈklɛvər/