Subtle meaning

sŭtl
The definition of something that is subtle is an indirect or very small distinction when comparing two things or ideas.

An example of subtle is adding a new spice to a recipe resulting in a very small change in the dish’s flavor.

adjective
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4
Operating in a hidden, usually injurious way; insidious.

A subtle poison.

adjective
16
3
Thin; rare; tenuous; not dense or heavy.

A subtle gas.

adjective
11
7
(of a person or animal) Cunning, skillful.
adjective
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0
Delicately skillful or clever; deft or ingenious.

A subtle filigree.

adjective
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Working insidiously; not easily detected.

A subtle poison.

adjective
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2
adjective
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0
Able to make fine distinctions.

A subtle mind.

adjective
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adjective
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Delicately suggestive; not grossly obvious.

A subtle hint.

adjective
3
1
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(of a thing) Cleverly contrived.
adjective
3
1
Not open or direct; crafty; sly.
adjective
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1
Hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable.

The difference is subtle, but you can hear it if you listen carefully.

adjective
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1

Origin of subtle

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

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

  • 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