Deaf vs deft

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Deaf and deft are two words that are similar in spelling and pronunciation, but have very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of deaf and deft, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The word deaf describes the an inability to hear, an inability to perceive and process auditory input.  Most audiologists, professionals who treat hearing problems, divide the degrees of deafness into four categories: mild, moderate, severe and profound. Hearing aids can help people with most types of hearing loss, though the hearing impaired who are profoundly deaf only perceive vibrations. Deaf education taught at schools for the deaf not only covers the core curriculum, but also how to communicate. Gallaudet University is a famous institution of higher learning for the deaf. Many deaf children and their families learn sign language, a gesture-based language. American Sign Language or ASL is taught in the United States, while British Sign Language or BSL is taught in Britain. These two systems of communication formed independently of each other, and are very different. Sign language interpreters are often provided in public situations. In addition to signing, deaf people often learn lip reading, and even learn to speak. Today, the hard of hearing and deaf may achieve anything a hearing person can achieve Marlee Matlin, a deaf woman, is a role model for many young girls. She won an Academy Award for her performance in the film Children of a Lesser God. The word deaf may also be used figuratively to mean to be unwilling to hear or heed something, or to be psychologically unprepared to hear or heed something. Deaf is an adjective, related words are deafer, deafest, deafness. Deaf is derived from the Old English word dēaf, the origin of which is the Dutch word doof.

Deft is an adjective that means skilled, clever, neat or swift in one’s movements. A skilled lacemaker may be deft, as her fingers move swiftly and with precision. A proficient writer may have a deft hand when it comes to dialogue. Words that are synonyms of the word deft that may be found as entries in a thesaurus are: adroit, adept, nimble, skillful. Related words are defter, deftest, deftly, deftness. The word deft is derived from the Old English word gedæfte, which became the Middle English words deft and daft.


About seven years have passed since Miyuki Kano, a 41-year-old former Olympic volleyball player, entered into the world of deaf sports as a volleyball coach, taking over the position of her friend who died of cancer. (The Japan Times)

“It is shameful we have elected officials who would so easily turn a deaf ear to citizens who just want to work toward a solution that is amicable for everyone involved.” (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Cochlear implants were a game-changer for a 4-year-old Kiwi who was born deaf and now speaks three languages. (The Otago Daily Times)

Cherkaoui is a deft and flexible performer, but his costar brings virtuoso elegance to these steps. (The Independent)

Though Seattle Times reviewer Charles R. Cross cautioned that this biography of the famed singer/songwriter is “too fawning by half,” fans will want to check it out for its deft analysis of many of Mitchell’s albums. (The Seattle Times)

Rose sprung Jashan Sandhar down the right wing with a deft touch pass, and Sandhar eluded a TRU defender along the goal line before slipping a pass to Zacharuk, who was all alone in front for the finish. (The Chilliwack Progress)