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90s Slang You Should Know


[suht-l] /ˈsʌt l/
adjective, subtler, subtlest.
thin, tenuous, or rarefied, as a fluid or an odor.
fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand:
subtle irony.
delicate or faint and mysterious:
a subtle smile.
requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment:
a subtle philosophy.
characterized by mental acuteness or penetration:
a subtle understanding.
cunning, wily, or crafty:
a subtle liar.
insidious in operation:
subtle poison.
skillful, clever, or ingenious:
a subtle painter.
Origin of subtle
1250-1300; Middle English sotil < Old French < Latin subtīlis subtile (b of modern spelling < L)
Related forms
subtleness, noun
subtly, adverb
hypersubtle, adjective
hypersubtleness, noun
nonsubtle, adjective
nonsubtleness, noun
nonsubtly, adverb
oversubtle, adjective
oversubtly, adverb
pseudosubtle, adjective
pseudosubtly, adverb
unsubtle, adjective
unsubtleness, noun
unsubtly, adverb
6. sly, tricky, foxy, slick. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for subtlest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She seemed the dearest, the subtlest, the strangest and most lovable girl.

    The "Genius" Theodore Dreiser
  • But certain souls are proof against the subtlest forms of hypnotism.

    Gossamer George A. Birmingham
  • Much of his best and subtlest work has been clacked out on a typewriter standing on an upturned packing box.

    Shandygaff Christopher Morley
  • He may be in an agony of fear, but only by the subtlest changes could it be detected.

  • In every case the colors used are those which produce the subtlest harmony.

    The Ceramic Art Jennie J. Young
  • The subtlest and most potent half of the spell is hidden; and we guess it only little by little.

    Laurus Nobilis Vernon Lee
  • Then follow the subtlest arguments, the most interminable discussions.

    Friend Mac Donald Max O'Rell
  • It would have been the subtlest flattery, had he not been the most honest and straightforward of men.

    Whittier-land Samuel T. Pickard
  • Now the worst aspect of the German policy is that it associates the subtlest dialectics with the most insane brutality.

    Through the Iron Bars Emile Cammaerts
British Dictionary definitions for subtlest


not immediately obvious or comprehensible
difficult to detect or analyse, often through being delicate or highly refined: a subtle scent
showing or making or capable of showing or making fine distinctions of meaning
marked by or requiring mental acuteness or ingenuity; discriminating
delicate or faint: a subtle shade
cunning or wily: a subtle rogue
operating or executed in secret: a subtle intrigue
Derived Forms
subtleness, noun
subtly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French soutil, from Latin subtīlis finely woven
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for subtlest



c.1300, sutel, soutil, in reference to things, "of thin consistency;" in reference to craftsmen, "skilled, clever," from Old French soutil, from Latin subtilis "fine, thin, delicate, finely woven," from sub "under" (see sub-) + -tilis, from tela "web" and texere "to weave" (see texture). The spelling with -b- reflects confusion with subtile. Most non-material senses were present by late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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