Definition of masterful in US English:



  • 1Powerful and able to control others.

    ‘behind the lace and ruffles was a masterful woman’
    • ‘Many have called Sonia's action, a masterful strategy, and even if this were to be true, it does not matter.’
    • ‘Very few teachers can feel masterful in such a classroom setting.’
    • ‘He said a lot of other things that suggested what a masterful politician Bill can be.’
    • ‘She's very masterful, very domineering and would look great in leather.’
    • ‘This was Ireland in dominant mode, masterful and confident in their control as they turned on the style.’
    commanding, powerful, controlling, imposing, magisterial, lordly, authoritative, dominating, domineering, overbearing, overweening, imperious, bossy, peremptory, high-handed, arrogant, autocratic, dictatorial, tyrannical, despotic
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  • 2Performed or performing very skillfully.

    ‘a masterful assessment of the difficulties’
    • ‘This was a masterful combination of flavours and textures - and excellent value too.’
    • ‘The effort stands as an excellent example of the masterful execution of a joint special operation.’
    • ‘I loved the first one for its sophisticated camerawork, intricate plot and masterful performances.’
    • ‘It is a masterful performance spoken in a second language which has clearly improved over the years.’
    • ‘She has a masterful command of the language and a manner of speaking that is precise and confident.’
    • ‘It is unquestionably masterful in its mellow execution, but ultimately it's background music for designer shopping.’
    • ‘It's a masterful performance that is easily among his most bare and honest.’
    • ‘But it wasn't just the kids who loved his masterful two-hour solo performance.’
    • ‘Technically, it is quite masterful, but is at times distracting in its cleverness.’
    • ‘Her masterful brush strokes and use of colour fired up many critics and curators and received immediate recognition.’
    • ‘In other words, we know nothing about our deft and masterful artist except for his name.’
    • ‘It was a great, masterful performance and was all about the sweet science of boxing.’
    • ‘Still, the masterful tone and astonishingly sophisticated writing in this novel redeem a lot of the awkwardness.’
    • ‘If India's batting was masterful, their bowling in truly testing conditions was even more creditable.’
    • ‘It shows someone who had a masterful command of language that gave the facility to speak and write eloquently.’
    • ‘Carroll's performance is masterful and has been deservedly acclaimed by local critics.’
    • ‘With masterful technique and an unhinged mad scene, she commanded the first act.’
    • ‘On one level it was masterful, but it was also riddled with amazing leaps of logic and agonizing moments of drama.’
    • ‘There are no shortcuts to masterful results; the students must control their efforts.’
    • ‘If I were able to play any instrument with masterful skill and grace it would be the cello.’
    expert, adept, clever, masterly
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Some writers maintain a distinction between masterful and masterly, using masterful to mean ‘powerful and able to control others’ (a masterful tone of voice) and masterly to mean ‘with the skill of a master’ (a masterly performance). In practice, the two words overlap considerably in the second meaning: more than half the citations for masterful in the Oxford English Corpus relate to the sense ‘with the skill of a master’