According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of the word finesse is as follows:

refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture

Now, based on the fact that the Latin base fin means end in English, I always intuitively assumed that the word had connotations with such concepts as: "finishing touch, attention to the end-product, and taking special care of the final details in a craft or situation". Are my perceptions of the word's associative properties a stretch of the imagination, or correctly guided?

  • 2
    It's not fin as in "end", it's fin as in "fine". Ultimately both are from the same Latin word, but that is entirely irrelevant to their present-day meaning in English, see etymological fallacy.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


The French loan-word finesse (also per the OED Pr. and Sp. fineza, Cat. finesa, Ital. finezza) derives from common Romance *finitia, from fino meaning — brace yourself now — “fine”.

So it just means fineness. This in turn was a back-formation from finire, meaning to finish.

One might as well ask why fine finishings aren’t doubly ended.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.