Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[suht-l-tee] /ˈsʌt l ti/
noun, plural subtleties.
the state or quality of being subtle.
delicacy or nicety of character or meaning.
acuteness or penetration of mind; delicacy of discrimination.
a fine-drawn distinction; refinement of reasoning:
the subtleties of logic.
something subtle.
History/Historical. an elaborate confection, ornate in construction and ornamentation, sometimes edible but more often made and used as a decoration for a table or buffet.
Origin of subtlety
1300-50; Middle English subtelte, sutilte < Old French sutilte < Latin subtīlitāt- (stem of subtīlitās) fineness, equivalent to subtīli(s) subtile + -tāt- -ty2
Related forms
hypersubtlety, noun
nonsubtlety, noun, plural nonsubtleties.
oversubtlety, noun, plural oversubtleties. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for subtlety
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And undoubtedly his subtlety was to some extent a matter of make-believe.

    Old and New Masters Robert Lynd
  • With what subtlety you St. Petersburg gentlemen express yourselves!

    Virgin Soil Ivan S. Turgenev
  • He lived among a people celebrated for subtlety and genius: he never laid himself open to detection.

    Four Early Pamphlets William Godwin
  • With all his adroitness and subtlety, he could get no inkling of their intentions.

    'Me-Smith' Caroline Lockhart
  • For a second time the Sayotkatta yielded to the subtlety of these unanswerable arguments.

    The Smuggler Chief Gustave Aimard
British Dictionary definitions for subtlety


noun (pl) -ties
the state or quality of being subtle; delicacy
a fine distinction or the ability to make such a distinction
something subtle
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for subtlety

mid-14c., from Old French soutilte, from Latin subtilitatem (nominative subtilitas), noun of quality from subtilis (see subtle).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for subtlety

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for subtlety

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for subtlety