Definitions for subtleˈsʌt l

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word subtle

Random House Webster's College Dictionary

sub•tleˈsʌt l(adj.)-tler, -tlest.

  1. thin, tenuous, or rarefied, as a fluid or an odor.

  2. fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand:

    subtle irony.

  3. delicate or faint and mysterious:

    a subtle smile.

  4. characterized by or requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment.

  5. cunning, wily, or crafty.

  6. insidious in operation:

    a subtle poison.

  7. skillful, clever, or ingenious.

Origin of subtle:

1250–1300; ME sotil < OF < L subtīlissubtile


Princeton's WordNet

  1. elusive, subtle(adj)

    difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze

    "his whole attitude had undergone a subtle change"; "a subtle difference"; "that elusive thing the soul"

  2. subtle(adj)

    able to make fine distinctions

    "a subtle mind"

  3. insidious, pernicious, subtle(adj)

    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way

    "glaucoma is an insidious disease"; "a subtle poison"

Kernerman English Learner's Dictionary

  1. subtle(adjective)ˈsʌt l

    affecting sth in a way that is not obvious

    subtle changes in her mood; The transition was subtle.

  2. subtleˈsʌt l

    pleasant and not too strong

    a subtle flavor of ginger

  3. subtleˈsʌt l

    creative and intelligent in a way that is not too obvious

    a subtle argument; His acting was subtle but powerful.; He tried subtly to convince his son.; subtly shaded black-and-white photographs


  1. subtle(Adjective)

    Hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable.

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

  2. subtle(Adjective)

    Cleverly contrived.

  3. subtle(Adjective)

    Cunning, skillful.

  4. subtle(Adjective)


  5. subtle(Adjective)

    Tenuous; rarefied; of low density or thin consistency.

  6. Origin: From sotil, subtil, from soutil, later subtil, subtil, from subtilis; probably, originally, “woven fine”, and from sub + tela, from texere.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Subtle

    sly in design; artful; cunning; insinuating; subtile; -- applied to persons; as, a subtle foe

  2. Subtle

    cunningly devised; crafty; treacherous; as, a subtle stratagem

  3. Subtle

    characterized by refinement and niceness in drawing distinctions; nicely discriminating; -- said of persons; as, a subtle logician; refined; tenuous; sinuous; insinuating; hence, penetrative or pervasive; -- said of the mind; its faculties, or its operations; as, a subtle intellect; a subtle imagination; a subtle process of thought; also, difficult of apprehension; elusive

  4. Subtle

    smooth and deceptive


  1. Subtle

    Subtle was an alternative hip hop sextet from Oakland, California. It consisted of Adam Drucker, Jeffrey Logan, Dax Pierson, Jordan Dalrymple, Alexander Kort, and Marty Dowers. The band was formed in 2001. While considered by the artists to be "genreless", Subtle had close ties to the hip hop and indie music scene. Although both Doseone and Jel have strong ties to the Anticon collective, Subtle was not on the Anticon label roster. Subtle was signed to Lex Records.

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'subtle' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #4833

  2. Adjectives Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'subtle' in Adjectives Frequency: #659

Anagrams of subtle

  1. bluets

  2. bluest

  3. bustle

  4. sublet

Translations for subtle

Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary


faint or delicate in quality, and therefore difficult to describe or explain

There is a subtle difference between `unnecessary' and `not necessary'; a subtle flavour.

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