To have the moves is used to mean that somebody memorized, and gained competence in, the movements required for a dance.

Can I use it to generally mean that somebody gained competence in something that is not dance or a sport? Would that be understood, or would native English speakers be confused by what I say?

  • 2
    It is a figurative slang expression meaning that someone is especially skilled at something. It could be card-sharking, basketball, selling used cars, getting dates. But probably not corporate finance or eye surgery, unless the speaker was being intentionally humorous. When you "have the moves" you are an impressive even dazzling practitioner or performer.
    – TimR
    Oct 8, 2016 at 12:05
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    I can't actually say I have the moves is dated (though I seem to have been tired of it for years). But to me it's at least quaint - on a par with I'm a dab hand or I know my onions. Such terms are best avoided unless you've already heard them being used by the people you're conversing with. Oct 8, 2016 at 13:07
  • I think the examples would have helped users visualize what you meant, especially learners, but each to his own.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 11, 2016 at 7:34
  • @Mari-LouA How can I have the moves to _____ be of any help?
    – apaderno
    Oct 11, 2016 at 7:41
  • "I have the moves to win that competition"? What about the second example, which comes from Oxford Dictionaries? And I've explained, it helps learners visualize the sentence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 11, 2016 at 7:45

1 Answer 1


To me, "to have the moves" is actually slightly derogatory. It makes the subject seem to be slick, or even arrogant. Perhaps that comes from the idiom "to put the move on someone", meaning to approach them sexually, but if someone "has the moves" in anything other than dance, to me they are not so much competent (although that is implied), but almost overbearing about it.

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