1

Are the words "flair", "knack" and "gift" interchangeable?

For example,

She has a flair for languages.

She has a knack for languages.

She has a gift for languages.

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  • 2
    What did the dictionary say?
    – tchrist
    Jan 27 '18 at 21:35
  • 2
    What was your favorite birthday knack this past year? When's the last time you saw somebody dressed with gift? Where do you keep your knick flairs? Please show your research.
    – tchrist
    Jan 27 '18 at 21:38
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    We can only know what you meant by what you wrote. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – tchrist
    Jan 27 '18 at 21:53
  • 1
    You need to gift the end of that pipe before you install it. My girlfriend gave me a birthday knack.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 27 '18 at 22:03
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    @HotLicks That would be "flare," not "flair."
    – Bacon Bits
    Jan 27 '18 at 22:04
2

Are the words "flair", "knack" and "gift" interchangeable?

Like most synonomns they apply in many overlapping situations, and a great percentage of the situations where one of the words would apply, the other is also likely true.

However, the words do popularly carry a bit further conotations, and unfortunately they aren't always immdeiately apparent in dictionary definitions until you start examining the nuanced minor differences in common sentence examples, derivations and perhaps secondary meanings that can partially flavor the first meaning.

To help you with the flavors, here is a sentence I created where all three words are used to apply to slightly different attributes of the same person!

  • The Nobel-prize-winning Professor not only had a gift for mathematics that enabled him to lead that science forward, but, as an instructor, he also had both a flair for designing creative project work for students that engaged their minds and efforts and a knack for coaching struggling students through mental barriers with precisely the right extra academic guidance they needed.

I'd say all of the words can have something of an innate aspect to them; certainly the skill or talent is suggested to "come naturally" - a bit less necessarily so for knack, yet there is more to them than that.

I'd agree with flair being style orientated but 'knack' to me is more about "making sense of a sticky thing, easily navigating a situation others find difficult" . "Flair" to me would mean 'particularly' apt in creating particular pleasing or current design. A flair for color might be a type of gift, yet gift is more sweeping trait a concert pianist might have or an MIT engineer would be gifted in music and mathematics, not have flair or knacks for the subjects

Your examples:

She has a flair for languages.

  • key words(IMO) from Oxford Living dictionaries for "flair"A special or instinctive aptitude or ability for ~doing something well~. 2. Stylishness and originality.
  • likely emphasizing a certain grace and facility in expressing things within the languages ... One might describe a given author or poet as having a "flair for the XXXX" language even if they only spoke a single language. Thus, there is some extra suggestion that someone who had a flair for multiple languages had a special way with each of them.

She has a knack for languages.

  • Keywords for knack(IMO) from Oxford Dictionaries: 1 An acquired or natural skill at doing something. 1.1 A tendency to do something. Because of the or it suggests a bit less magic, and the 'tendency' also might suggest a bit more of a 'good from habit/interest' to it.

  • First, I believe this would probably be said "knack for ~learning~ languages" or a "knack for deciphering languages they haven not been introduced to. Personally I'd be more inclined for using "knack" with something like "decoding alphabets" more than speaking or expressing a language.

She has a gift for languages.

  • keywords for gift (IMO), oxford dictionary: 2. a natural ability or talent.

  • As expressed above with 'knack', to some degree there is a suggested "learning" languages, but less so. With a gift, there a facility of both quickly learning and having some degree of flair, or high competence is suggested. "Come naturally in a remarkable way"? By listening and interacting they might pickup and be able to reuse accents and idioms - to some degree there would be a 'knack' there too of course, yet it is quite possible that a person with a 'knack' might be able to merely 'get along ok' while when the word "gift" is used, one doesn't picture someone using their mind to unpack meaning or resort to 'good enough to get the meaning across'... more than that.

OF COURSE,

There is still a bit of opinion of mine seeping in, but the references to the dictionary differences should help.

0

Flair and knack are interchangeable, but not gift. Gift speaks of an innate talent, whereas flair and knack are more style oriented.

3
  • I'd say both 'flair' and 'knack' are somewhat 'innate' too ... certainly the skill or talent is suggested to "come naturally" . I'd agree with flair being style orientated but 'knack' to me is more about "making sense of a sticky thing, easily navigating a situation others find difficult" . "Flair" to me would mean 'particularly' apt in creating particular pleasing or current design. A flair for color might be a type of gift, yet gift is more sweeping trait a concert pianist might have or an MIT engineer would be gifted in music and mathematics, not have flair or knacks for the subjects
    – Tom22
    Jan 28 '18 at 0:05
  • Yes, good looking out. Knack does speak to troubleshooting.
    – user15363
    Jan 29 '18 at 18:31
  • 'knack' can be very much learned/practiced. "It's easy once you've got the knack for it" is pretty much the only context I've heard the word used.
    – JeffUK
    Mar 31 '18 at 9:59

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