I've run into the following sentence:

[...] that we are building utopias in our virtualities that will finesse away the imperfections of human character.

I could not find in any place the meaning of "finesse away" as a phrasal verb.

Though I found this expression in some other contexts:

  1. Weak private investment means weak growth and bleak long-term employment prospects. There is no way to finesse away that fact.
  1. However, I think we can say with confidence that our awareness is rooted in the physical brain. This is where our conciousness exists, and I don't think we will ever be able to finesse away this fundamental dependency.
  1. However, rather than attempt to finesse away the concept of race, we should simply ask: in civic life, how much significance ought we to attach to racial difference?
  1. The dreaded alternative minimum tax, which was created to ensure that upper-income Americans would not be able to finesse away their tax obligations altogether, would be eliminated under the proposal.
  1. Together the EDGE architecture and its compiler finesse away much of the register renaming, CAMs, and complexity
  1. Let’s finesse away for the moment, exactly what “meanness” means.
  1. Follow up with McKee’s 37 Fast Polish to refine the finish, then finesse away any remaining blemishes and add the warm glow of carnauba with McKee’s 37 Jeweling Wax.

From uses above, I could guess "finesse away" could mean:

  • something close to "circumvent", "avoid" (in sentences 1 to 5)
  • "ignore" (in sentence 6)
  • "subtly remove" (in sentence 7)

Except for sentence 7 (the only one I can clearly understand the choice of "finesse away" - to imply delicacy, subtlety), does "finesse away" carries any additional meaning besides the interpretations above?


2 Answers 2


That's a good list of finds and a good effort. I also looked it up as a phrasal verb, but it turns out looking up just the word "finesse" seems to give an answer:

8.to avoid; circumvent.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

2.To handle with a deceptive or evasive strategy.
American Heritage Dictionary

2b : evade, skirt
finesse the hard issues
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1.1North American Slyly attempt to avoid blame or censure when dealing with (a situation or problem)
Oxford Living Dictionaries

The first three come from AmE dictionaries, the last one comes from a BrE one, and it makes note that it's a North American use.

Collins English Dictionary (another BrE dictionary) doesn't have a verb definition. All entries have a noun definition for a trick or deception, and in many cases it's specifically used in regard to card games like bridge and whist.

This makes me believe it's particularly a North American thing. This is new to me, I wasn't aware of this meaning of finesse.

I searched Google NGram Viewer to compare British and American results, but no results show. I've also checked the iWeb American corpus search to see what words collocate with finesse, "away" was nowhere to be found. I'd be interested to know whether this is a regional thing in North America or whether it's recognised everywhere there.


It means:

cause to go 'away' by way of 'finesse'

This compares to the pattern...

(verb) away [something]

...such as in...

wash away soot

...using "finesse" as the verb.

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