Clever may seem like a compliment, but this adjective boasts a rather broad range of meanings—from "intelligent" and "imaginative" to "calculating" or "contrived."
The roots of the word clever, are unknown. It was in use colloquially long before it entered the literary record, and this may be a factor in the word's enduring suppleness. The earliest written examples of clever convey the idea of dexterity — that is, the term was used to describe someone who was good with his hands. Now, clever still means "agile" or "adroit," but it refers to mental, rather than physical, skill. Clever can also be used to describe the products of a nimble mind, such as a "clever scheme" or a "clever device."