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See also: Clever



From East Anglian dialectal English cliver (expert at seizing), from Middle English cliver (tenacious),

Related to cleave. Perhaps influenced by Welsh celfydd (talented, dexterous, expert).



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

  1. Nimble with hands or body; skillful; adept.
  2. Quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas; intelligent.
  3. Mentally quick and resourceful; skilled at achieving what one wants in a mentally agile and inventive way.
    clever like a fox
    With a clever lawyer, she could easily be acquitted.
    • 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.
  4. Smart, intelligent, or witty; mentally quick or sharp.
    • 19th c, 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.
    • 1860, John Timbs, School-Days of Eminent Men[1], 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.
  5. (archaic) Sane; in one's right mind.
    • 1892, Margaret Oliphant, The Heir Presumptive and the Heir Apparent, page 263:
      He was not clever, poor fellow, he did not know what questions to ask; he asked the same questions again and again. He continued to show his own troubled thoughts, and the vague dread in his mind, []
  6. (of objects or actions) Showing mental quickness and resourcefulness.
    This is a simple but clever trick to solve the problem.
    • 2013 June 22, “Engineers of a different kind”, in 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.
  7. (of objects or actions) Showing inventiveness or originality; witty.
    • 1816, Jane Austen, chapter 9, in Emma, volume 1:
      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, chapter III, in The Moon and Sixpence:
      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”, in 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.
    • 2014 April 11, Ron Charles, “David Grand’s ‘Mount Terminus’”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 190, number 18, page 37:
      The Rosenbloom Loop is a clever little device, but it’s an even more clever symbol of the role that discipline plays in the creation of illusion: the persistence of vision that makes sequential still images appear to move.
  8. (UK, colloquial, chiefly in the negative) Fit and healthy; free from fatigue or illness.
    • 2010, Colin Ross, Death of the Docks, page 196:
      But at that moment I knew it was all over for me, I had never thought that this day would come, but it had and I was not feeling too clever. In fact I had to escape to a nearby toilet to be sick.
    • 2019, Neil Forsyth, 30:07 from the start, in Guilt, season 1, episode 1, spoken by Jake McCall (Jamie Sives):
      Right, and no, because the solicitor has told her that Walter's legs didn't look too clever, which, apparently, everyone's putting down to a fall, thankfully.
  9. (US, dated) Good-natured; obliging.
  10. (anthropology, of an Aboriginal Australian) Possessing magical abilities.
    • 1904, Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, volume 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.
  11. (obsolete) Fit; suitable; having propriety.
  12. (obsolete) Well-shaped; handsome.
    • 1712, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], “The Character of John Bull’s Sister Peg, with the Quarrels that Happen’d between Master and Miss, in Their Childhood”, in John Bull Still in His Senses: Being the Third Part of Law is a Bottomless-Pit. [], London: [] John Morphew, [], →OCLC, page 10:
      Tho' the Girl vvas a tight, clever VVench as any vvas, and thro' her pale Looks, you might diſcern Spirit and Vivacity, vvhich made her not indeed a perfect Beauty, but ſomething that vvas agreeable.



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

Derived terms[edit]


  • German: clever
  • Limburgish: klevver


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading[edit]

clever”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “clever”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading[edit]




Borrowed from English clever.


  • IPA(key): [ˈklɛvɐ]
  • Hyphenation: cle‧ver
  • (file)


clever (strong nominative masculine singular cleverer, comparative cleverer or clevrer, superlative am cleversten)

  1. clever


Further reading[edit]

  • clever” in Duden online
  • clever” in Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of clevere