Definition of finesse in English:



  • 1Intricate and refined delicacy.

    ‘orchestral playing of great finesse’
    • ‘He didn't just dance, he danced with finesse and mastery.’
    • ‘His skill and finesse in collecting and preparing specimens made this effort fruitful.’
    • ‘Lambie had moulded a side of experience and finesse and they were far more impressive than in recent weeks.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She performs the hoopla-hoop on freezing ice with dexterity and finesse and is unarguably one of the greatest performers in her chosen field.’
    • ‘It is a game of skill, finesse and intelligence.’
    • ‘I'm fairly convinced that the contests would show the strength, intelligence, artistry and finesse of the American game and players are superior.’
    • ‘The actors assimilate the cringe-worthy lines with great skill and finesse, so that the audience laughs rather than groans.’
    • ‘There is an inherently satisfying quality to sharing the gratification of skill, finesse and excitement with a substantial number of individuals.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Centurions continued to illustrate flair and finesse in attack,’
    • ‘But the Bulldogs' goal-line defence was equally as impressive as their finishing finesse.’
    • ‘The winners are determined through skill, tactics and finesse.’
    • ‘What is unique to the art is that one did not use brute strength to overpower an opponent, but rather skill, finesse and flexibility.’
    • ‘Those harsh wartime experiences deeply affected her playing - reviewers noted it had lost its polish and finesse - and she resolved to regain it.’
    • ‘The firm was successful but better known for engineering expertise than design 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.’
    • ‘How about good, clean, hard-hitting hockey that displays skill, speed and finesse?’
    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 Artful subtlety, typically that needed for tactful handling of a difficulty.
      ‘clients want advice and action that calls for considerable finesse’
      • ‘The elegance of the juxtapositions, presented with utmost tact and finesse, allowed associations to seep into our minds almost unbidden.’
      • ‘The situation will call for the exercise of an exceptional degree of diplomatic finesse.’
      • ‘That's the kind of remark that requires finesse, and only someone like Sy could have pulled it off without getting physically hurt.’
      • ‘Kumar's diplomatic finesse wins him high marks from the board.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Russian nationalism had grown in the 1930s, but had been handled with some finesse.’
      • ‘Although he had irked her so, she had to admit he handled her with such finesse that aroused her admiration.’
      • ‘When it took control, it promised a global stewardship purring with gravity, finesse and farsightedness.’
      • ‘Handle issues with finesse, and you and the crew could come out closer.’
      • ‘And I learnt from my Parsi connections through marriage that death and sorrow can be handled with so much finesse, so much dignity.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Obviously the clan is upset, and again, if you ask me, I think it's being handled with a certain lack of finesse.’
      • ‘She showed finesse and rosy-faced sophistication.’
      • ‘Winning and keeping control of an empire here would require finesse and tact, brutality and astuteness.’
      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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    winning move, trick, stratagem, ruse, manoeuvre, scheme, artifice, machination, bluff, wile
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  • 1Do (something) in a subtle and delicate manner.

    ‘his third shot, which he attempted to finesse, failed by a fraction’
    • ‘It takes a measure of artistic fortitude to lovingly depict the ordinary, and ample skill to finesse it into quietly seductive works of art.’
    • ‘We have seen situations where the judges have to leak their investigations to the press in order to finesse the minister who has control of their investigations.’
    • ‘The plain fact is that he should have gone to Shanghai personally to finesse the deal with the car makers.’
    • ‘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 had a talent for being present at precisely those moments when slavery was being challenged - and a knack for eloquently finessing the issue.’
    • ‘Confronted by the latest request, Atlanta politicians seem to be looking for a way to finesse this issue, also.’
    • ‘The interest of his thought today lies precisely in the way he finesses this apparent paradox.’
    • ‘I wonder how certain fools will try to finesse this story?’
    • ‘Yet Scorsese finesses this flaw pretty well by staging each psychological breakdown as worse than the preceding one, and each triumph as more vivid.’
    • ‘The use of a flashlight for finessing tones is a technique familiar to photographers who specialize in still life.’
    • ‘They have to finesse conflict and articulate a strategy, not just a vision.’
    • ‘So far we've been able to finesse it, but so far is never a promise of how it's going to end.’
    • ‘He neglected to finesse his connections the right way.’
    • ‘Chico must mangle the English language as much as Groucho finesses it; he must also have a scene in which he plays the piano with manual acrobatics and comic panache.’
    • ‘He is explosive with a lean build and at 6-foot and 185 pounds, he can overpower you, finesse you, or just flat out beat you with blinding speed.’
    • ‘He took one simple plot and finessed it in very different ways within the chapters and, particularly, between the two halves.’
    • ‘Both paddlers managed to muscle and finesse their way out of peril and escaped unscathed.’
    • ‘But the significant fact is that if they ever could have finessed the election and slipped it past the voters without a real campaign, that is impossible now.’
    • ‘Only a few top players are able to finesse a victory in such a situation.’
    • ‘But once Charles takes to the air, anyone can see that he doesn't just fly, he finesses his well-executed climbs, turns and descents.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Specifically, value is misconstrued here, she maintains, since Derrida fails to finesse the theory of surplus-value in the way that Marx does.’
    • ‘The attempt to finesse them does not make them go away.’
    • ‘At the same time, while finessing the conundrums and contradictions that inhered in popular perceptions of housework, those regimes also sought to enhance the utility of such women within domestic as well as broader societal arenas.’
    • ‘Even more startling is how Lee finesses this scene by putting the audience in Ruby's shoes and making us think we are going to a punk show with Ritchie, only to reveal his desperate secret.’
    • ‘Led by 1996 Olympic coaches, you'll spend four hours a day in the water, finessing your kick-and-pull technique in the four major strokes.’
    1. 1.1North American Slyly attempt to avoid blame or censure when dealing with (a situation or action)
      ‘the administration's attempts to finesse its mishaps’
      • ‘It appears that the administration will attempt to finesse this problem by the blatant expedient of pretending the borrowing never happened.’
      • ‘I want you to listen to what he told his team earlier this week, because he finessed a clearly, clearly dangerous situation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      bluff, manoeuvre, cheat, evade, trick, feign
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  • 2(in bridge and whist) play (a card that is not a certain winner) in the hope of winning a trick with it.

    ‘the declarer finesses ♦J’
    • ‘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.