from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Mentally quick and original; bright.
  • adj. Nimble with the hands or body; dexterous.
  • adj. Exhibiting quick-wittedness: a clever story.
  • adj. New England Easily managed; docile: "Oxen must be pretty clever to be bossed around the way they are” ( Dialect Notes).
  • adj. New England Affable but not especially smart.
  • adj. Chiefly Southern U.S. Good-natured; amiable. See Regional Note at ugly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Nimble with hands or body; skillful; adept.
  • adj. Resourceful, sometimes to the point of cunning.
  • adj. Smart, intelligent or witty; mentally quick or sharp.
  • adj. Showing inventiveness or originality; witty.
  • adj. Possessing magical abilities.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Possessing quickness of intellect, skill, dexterity, talent, or adroitness; expert.
  • adj. Showing skill or adroitness in the doer or former.
  • adj. Having fitness, propriety, or suitableness.
  • adj. Well-shaped; handsome.
  • adj. Good-natured; obliging.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Possessing skill or address; having special ability of any kind, especially such as involves quickness of intellect or mechanical dexterity; adroit. It now commonly implies the possession of ability which, though noteworthy, does not amount to genius, nor even to a high degree of talent.
  • Indicative of or exhibiting cleverness: as, a clever speech; a clever trick.
  • Well shaped; active-looking; handsome.
  • Good-natured; obliging; complaisant; possessing an agreeable mind or disposition.
  • Agreeable; pleasant; comfortable; nice: as, “these clever apartments,”
  • Synonyms Adroit, Dexterous, Expert, etc. (see adroit); ready, quick, ingenious, neat-handed, knowing, sharp, bright.
  • A variant of claver.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. showing inventiveness and skill
  • adj. mentally quick and resourceful
  • adj. showing self-interest and shrewdness in dealing with others


Middle English cliver; akin to East Frisian klifer, klüfer.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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"). Related to cleave. (Wiktionary)


  • I _should_ like to know what her estimate is, but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel _too clever_, and of finding my own story and my own people all forestalled.

    Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters A Family Record

  • - I should like to know what her Estimate is-but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever-& of finding my own story and my own people all forestalled.

    Jane Austen's Letters To Her Sister Cassandra and Others

  • Examining the brain-imaging data, Bengtsson found that the students' brains responded differently to the mistakes they made depending on whether they were primed with the word clever or the word stupid.

    The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot: extract

  • “To you,” pursued Forcheville, “does intelligence mean what they call clever talk; you know, the sort of people who worm their way into society?”

    Swann's Way

  • Modder River, when all day long most of our men were quite unable to discover on which side of the stream the Boer entrenchments were, and in what they called clever trickery, but we called treachery, they are absolutely unsurpassable.

    With the Guards' Brigade from Bloemfontein to Koomati Poort and Back

  • "To you," pursued Forcheville, "does intelligence mean what they call clever talk; you know, the sort of people who worm their way into society?"

    Swann's Way

  • Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, though her acquaintances were chiefly in the world of fortune and of fashion, had yet a certain weakness for what she called clever people.

    Complete Project Gutenberg Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Works

  • It is an operation so absorbing that it often weakens those pettier talents which make what we call the clever man.

    Put Yourself in His Place

  • The father-in-law of Tallien is a banker, what you call a clever fellow; another word, says the most sensible man here, for a cheat; the court and the clergy mutually support each other, and their combined despotism is indeed dreadful, yet much is doing; Jardine is very active; he has forwarded the establishment of schools in the Asturias with his Spanish friends.

    Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey

  • "It depends what you call clever and what you call dirty," said Wenger, who was asked whether he felt Scholes tackled unfairly.

    The Guardian World News


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  • Algernon: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
    Jack: Is that clever?

    -The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde

    December 31, 2009