Definition of finesse in English:

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Pronunciation: /fəˈnes/


1Intricate and refined delicacy: orchestral playing of great finesse
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  • But the Bulldogs' goal-line defence was equally as impressive as their finishing finesse.
  • There is an inherently satisfying quality to sharing the gratification of skill, finesse and excitement with a substantial number of individuals.
  • It is a game of skill, finesse and intelligence.
skill, skillfulness, expertise, subtlety, flair, panache, elan, polish, artistry, virtuosity, mastery
1.1Artful subtlety, typically that needed for tactful handling of a difficulty: clients want advice and action that calls for considerable finesse
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  • And I learnt from my Parsi connections through marriage that death and sorrow can be handled with so much finesse, so much dignity.
  • 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.
tact, tactfulness, discretion, diplomacy, delicacy, sensitivity, perceptiveness, savoir faire
2(In bridge and whist) an attempt to win a trick with a card that is not a certain winner.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • To do its job, a test needs to be absolutely fair and rigorous, incapable of being finessed, and externally moderated.
winning move, trick, stratagem, ruse, maneuver, artifice, machination


[with object]
1Do (something) in a subtle and delicate manner: his third shot, which he attempted to finesse, failed by a fraction
More example sentences
  • The attempt to finesse them does not make them go away.
  • 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.
  • 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.
1.1chiefly North American Slyly attempt to avoid blame or censure when dealing with (a situation or action): the administration’s attempts to finesse its mishaps
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  • It appears that the administration will attempt to finesse this problem by the blatant expedient of pretending the borrowing never happened.
  • Some interpreters attempt to finesse the problem, claiming that it is irrelevant.
  • 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.
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
More example sentences
  • 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 fine1.

Words that rhyme with finesse

acquiesce, address, assess, Bess, bless, bouillabaisse, caress, cess, chess, coalesce, compress, confess, convalesce, cress, deliquesce, digress, dress, duchesse, duress, effervesce, effloresce, evanesce, excess, express, fess, fluoresce, guess, Hesse, impress, incandesce, intumesce, jess, largesse, less, manageress, mess, ness, noblesse, obsess, oppress, outguess, phosphoresce, politesse, possess, press, priestess, princess, process, profess, progress, prophetess, regress, retrogress, stress, success, suppress, tendresse, top-dress, transgress, tress, tristesse, underdress, vicomtesse, yes

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fi·nesse

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