clever

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From East Anglian dialectal English cliver (expert at seizing), from Middle English cliver (tenacious), perhaps from Old English *clifer, clibbor (clinging), or perhaps from East Frisian (compare Saterland Frisian kluftich), or dialectal Norwegian klover (ready, skillful); possibly influenced by Old English clifer (claw, hand).[1] Related to cleave.

Pronunciation[edit]

Adjective[edit]

clever (comparative cleverer or more clever, superlative cleverest or most clever)

  1. Nimble with hands or body; skillful; adept.
  2. Resourceful, sometimes to the point of cunning.
    • 1890, Joseph Jacobs (collator), Molly Whuppie, English Fairy Tales,
      The youngest of the three strange lassies was called Molly Whuppie, and she was very clever. She noticed that before they went to bed the giant put straw ropes round her neck and her sisters', and round his own lassies' necks, he put gold chains. So Molly took care and did not fall asleep, but waited till she was sure every one was sleeping sound. Then she slipped out of the bed, and took the straw ropes off her own and her sisters' necks, and took the gold chains off the giant's lassies. She then put the straw ropes on the giant's lassies and the gold on herself and her sisters, and lay down.
    • 2013 June 22, “Engineers of a different kind”, The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 70: 
      Private-equity nabobs bristle at being dubbed mere financiers. [] Much of their pleading is public-relations bluster. Clever financial ploys are what have made billionaires of the industry’s veterans. “Operational improvement” in a portfolio company has often meant little more than promising colossal bonuses to sitting chief executives if they meet ambitious growth targets. That model is still prevalent today.
    clever like a fox
  3. Smart, intelligent, or witty; mentally quick or sharp.
    • 1860, John Timbs, School-Days of Eminent Men, page 177,
      Lord Macaulay has said of Bunyan: “though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of these minds produced ‘The Paradise Lost;’ the other, ‘The Pilgrim's Progress.’”
    • 1912, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett (translator), The Brothers Karamazov, Book V, Chapter 7: "It's Always Worth While Speaking to a Clever Man",
      I would have sent Alyosha, but what use is Alyosha in a thing like that? I send you just because you are a clever fellow. Do you suppose I don't see that? You know nothing about timber, but you've got an eye.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Charles Kingsley, A Farewell,
      Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever; / Do noble things, not dream them all day long: / And so make life, death, and that vast forever / One grand, sweet song.
  4. Showing inventiveness or originality; witty.
    • 1816, Jane Austen, Emma, Volume 1, Chapter 9,
      Mr. Woodhouse was almost as much interested in the business as the girls, and tried very often to recollect something worth their putting in. "So many clever riddles as there used to be when he was young--he wondered he could not remember them! but he hoped he should in time." And it always ended in "Kitty, a fair but frozen maid."
    • 1919, William Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, Chapter III,
      I felt they expected me to say clever things, and I never could think of any till after the party was over.
    • 2011 April 10, Alistair Magowan, “Aston Villa 1-0 Newcastle”, BBC Sport:
      Just before the break Villa were denied a second goal when Bent had the ball in the net, although he was ruled offside after Jean Makoun's clever pass.
  5. (anthropology, of an Aboriginal Australian) Possessing magical abilities.
    • 1904, Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Vol. XXXVIII, page 255,
      When a clever man is out hunting and comes across the tracks of, say, a kangaroo, he follows them along and talks to the footprints all the time for the purpose of injecting magic into the animal which made them.
    • 1947, Oceania, Volumes 16-17, page 330,
      Prior to this, the two women, who were “clever,” and possessed a certain amount of magical “power,” [] .
    • 1991, John & Sue Erbacher, Aborigines of the Rainforest,
      Fred is the clever fellow or tribal doctor who practises with the Kuku-Yalanji people. The tribal doctor’s work includes curing sickness, finding out the causes of death, predicting the future and making and stopping rain.
  6. (obsolete) fit; suitable; having propriety
    • Jonathan Swift
      'Twould sound more clever / To me and to my heirs forever.
  7. (obsolete) Well-shaped; handsome.
    • Arbuthnot
      The girl was a tight, clever wench as any was.
  8. (US, dated) good-natured; obliging

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

  • (smart, intelligent or witty): dull, stupid
  • (resourceful, perhaps cunning): ineffectual, naive
  • (nimble or skillful): clumsy
  • (showing inventiveness):
  • (possessing magical powers):

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "clever" on Etymonline.