What is the difference between Finesse and Elegance?

The difference between finesse and elegance

is that “finesse” is skill in the handling or manipulation of a situation. [from c. 1520] and “elegance” is grace, refinement, and beauty in movement, appearance, or manners.




  • (uncountable) Skill in the handling or manipulation of a situation. [from c. 1520]
  • (uncountable) The property of having elegance, grace, refinement, or skill. [from mid 16th c.]
  • (countable) An adroit manoeuvre. [from mid 16th c.]
  • (countable, card games) In bridge, whist, etc.: a technique which allows one to win a trick, usually by playing a card when it is thought that a card that can beat it is held by another player whose turn is over. [from early 18th c.]


  • Synonym: finessing
  • It is not impossible that this bold attempt to wrest from this State and Nation, so large and important a frontier territory; with the insidious arts, and unblushing finesse and chicanery, with which the British pretensions have been managed, may yet awaken the American people from their apathy on the subject— […]
  • When Lovat finally took the resolution of dispatching his son, with the best part of his clan, to the assistance of Charles Edward, a resolution which was not adopted without much hesitation and many misgivings, he feigned, with characteristic finesse, an apology for his march.
  • Finesse is not exactly subtlety; we draw a person into a snare with finesse; we escape from it with subtlety. We act with finesse, and we play a subtle trick. Distrust is inspired by an unsparing use of finesse; yet we almost always deceive ourselves if we too generally suspect it.
  • The Treaty of Madrid called into action the diplomatic finesse, or rather the low cunning of the English cabinet.
  • An Indian known by the name of Silver Heels, from his superior agility, as well as his admirable finesse in the art of war, and who had killed more of the enemy than any one of the tribes in alliance with Great Britain, accidentally came into the fort just before the soldier was to receive his punishment, and expressed his displeasure that a man should be so shamefully disgraced.
  • The first inroads on our laws of ****** were made at the instigation, and by the secret management, of some of our “prime nobles,” who had either seduced, or married, or pledged themselves to marry a wife’s sister; and who wished by this finesse, to escape, at once, public odium and personal responsibility; […]
  • [A] simplified version of English, called Basic English, […] is mainly intended for tangibles like business and scientific cooperation, and the designer of which renounces the intention of catering for the finesses of cultural exchange or diplomacy.
  • The Finesse Proper.—When, upon the invite of your partner, you refuse to force with your strongest card, or one of equal strength, you are in the case of the finesse proper. Holding the ace, queen, and ten, and taking with the queen, is a simple finesse; that is, a finesse to the king.
  • Here we are going to examine finesses from a negative standpoint. Those players who take finesses wherever and whenever they appear will seldom give any thought to what might happen if the finesse were to lose. And this is why taking or shunning a finesse is an option which shouldn’t be exercised without much prior thought.


  • (transitive, chiefly Canada, US, politics) To evade (a problem, situation, etc.) by using some clever argument or strategem.
  • (transitive, card games) To play (a card) as a finesse. [from mid 18th c.]
  • (transitive, intransitive) To handle or manage carefully or skilfully; to manipulate in a crafty way. [from mid 18th c.]
  • (intransitive, card games) To attempt to win a trick by finessing. [from mid 18th c.]
  • (intransitive, croquet, obsolete) To play a ball out of the way of an opponent.


  • It is said that democratic institutions necessarily lead to political corruption. I can only say that it has not been so in this Colony. Members have schemed, finessed, log-rolled, to serve their districts, but never to put money in their own pockets.
  • The founders deliberately finessed other issues concerning religion and the relationship between church and state to ensure the ratification of the Constitution.
  • […] Britain’s Prime Minister David Lloyd George finessed the distinction between “indemnification” and “reparations” by insisting that his government’s pension payments to the families of fallen soldiers should also be categorized as ‘civilian” damages, thus making the recipients eligible for “reparations” to the tune of at least $110 billion […].
  • The ace is certainly to your left, you therefore finesse the ten, for if your left-hand adversary holds ace and knave he must make them both; but otherwise, your ten forces the ace, and you are left with the best.
  • Again, no amount of writing, and apparently no amount of practice, will induce a player to see that it is not always right to finesse an Ace Queen. We have seen all the trumps out. We have led a suit of which our partner had Ace, Queen, and two long Clubs; he finessed the Queen, and did not make his two Clubs. […] Twice in a fortnight have we have the Ace Queen finessed when two cards only remained in each hand and one trump was in.
  • Synonym: zhoosh
  • Distressed as she was, she rose the next morning determined to contend with her feelings,—to think no more of Trevor,—and to finesse no more for a husband—she had had enough of it.
  • As the children continue to shoot one another, I ask them some questions about guns. […] [M]ost revealing to me is that the children fully agree that they are playing a pretend game. The bad guys “really hurt people” and Freddie knows it because he “plays” it. Really hurting in pretend play … the children are not confused by this finessing of real and pretend. I think it is we adults who are confused by it.
  • When we get the script and we have a piece that’s being written to or being created around a voiceover, we’ll generally do a scratch voiceover track here and time it out to that, then get the real voiceover and do some finessing there.
  • After making the original capture […], I sat down to finesse it in Photoshop.
  • In the first round of a suit, you should generally, / 8. PLAY YOUR HIGHEST CARD THIRD HAND. / a. In order to strengthen your partner. You presume that he leads from his strong suit, and wants to get the winning cards of it out of his way […]; you, therefore, do not finesse […], but play your highest, remembering that you play the lowest of a sequence […]. With ace, queen you do finesse, for, in this case, if the king is in the fourth hand, it must make, unless single, which is very improbable; and by putting on the ace, you make the king good, if against you.


  • Grace, refinement, and beauty in movement, appearance, or manners.
  • Restraint and grace of style.
  • The beauty of an idea characterized by minimalism and intuitiveness while preserving exactness and precision.
  • (countable, dated) A refinement or luxury.

Related terms

  • elegant


  • The bride was elegance personified.
  • The simple dress had a quiet elegance.
  • The proof of the theorem had a pleasing elegance.
  • As to the comforts and elegances of life, we have enough of them for our good.
  • At Rome, when Sallust was the fashionable writer, short sentences, uncommon words, and an obscure brevity, were affected as so many elegances.
  • Phineas Duge […] was, for a man of affairs and an American, singularly fond of the small elegances of life. Although he sat alone at dinner, the table was heaped with choice flowers and carefully selected hothouse fruit.