Subtle Definition

subtler, subtlest
subtler, subtlest
So slight as to be difficult to detect or describe; elusive.
A subtle smile.
American Heritage
Thin; rare; tenuous; not dense or heavy.
A subtle gas.
Webster's New World
Difficult to understand; abstruse.
An argument whose subtle point was lost on her opponent.
American Heritage
Capable of making or noticing fine distinctions in meaning, etc.
A subtle thinker.
Webster's New World
Marked by or requiring mental keenness.
Subtle reasoning.
Webster's New World

Other Word Forms of Subtle


Base Form:

Origin of Subtle

  • From Middle English sotil, subtil, from Old French soutil, later subtil, French subtil, from Latin subtilis (“fine, thin, slender, delicate"); probably, originally, “woven fine", and from sub (“under") + tela (“a web"), from texere (“to weave").

    From Wiktionary

  • Middle English sotil from Old French from Latin subtīlis teks- in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

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