Archaic. a choice food; delicacy.
Obsolete. a source of pleasure; luxury.

Origin of delicate

1325–75; Middle English delicat < Latin dēlicātus delightful, dainty; akin to delicious
Related formsdel·i·cate·ly, adverbdel·i·cate·ness, nounhy·per·del·i·cate, adjectivehy·per·del·i·cate·ly, adverbhy·per·del·i·cate·ness, nounnon·del·i·cate, adjectivenon·del·i·cate·ly, adverbnon·del·i·cate·ness, nounqua·si-del·i·cate, adjectivequa·si-del·i·cate·ly, adverbsu·per·del·i·cate, adjectivesu·per·del·i·cate·ly, adverbsu·per·del·i·cate·ness, noun

Synonyms for delicate

Synonym study

1. Delicate, dainty, exquisite imply beauty such as belongs to rich surroundings or which needs careful treatment. Delicate, used of an object, suggests fragility, small size, and often very fine workmanship: a delicate piece of carving. Dainty, in concrete references, suggests a smallness, gracefulness, and beauty that forbid rough handling: a dainty handkerchief; of persons, it refers to fastidious sensibilities: dainty in eating habits. Exquisite suggests an outstanding beauty and elegance, or a discriminating sensitivity and ability to perceive fine distinctions: an exquisite sense of humor.

Antonyms for delicate

1, 2. coarse. 3. hard, crude. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for delicateness

Historical Examples of delicateness

  • Very nervous persons develop a delicateness and acuteness of smell which other persons do not even imagine.

  • The others had all been women—womanly women, full of the weakness, the delicateness rather, that distinguishes the feminine.

    The Grain Of Dust

    David Graham Phillips

  • And upon one of them she leaned, as if for delicateness and overmuch tenderness she were not able to bear up her own body.

  • For a Kate of the Black Eyebrows in the plot makes many a mighty difference to the delicateness of a man's stomach.

British Dictionary definitions for delicateness



exquisite, fine, or subtle in quality, character, construction, etc
having a soft or fragile beauty
(of colour, tone, taste, etc) pleasantly subtle, soft, or faint
easily damaged or injured; lacking robustness, esp in health; fragile
precise, skilled, or sensitive in action or operationa delicate mechanism
requiring tact and diplomacy
sensitive in feeling or manner; showing regard for the feelings of others
excessively refined; squeamish


archaic a delicacy; dainty
Derived Formsdelicately, adverbdelicateness, noun

Word Origin for delicate

C14: from Latin dēlicātus affording pleasure, from dēliciae (pl) delight, pleasure; see delicious
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

Word Origin and History for delicateness



late 14c., "self-indulgent, loving ease; delightful; sensitive, easily hurt; feeble," from Latin delicatus "alluring, delightful, dainty," also "addicted to pleasure, luxurious, effeminate;" of uncertain origin; related by folk etymology (and perhaps genuinely) to deliciae "a pet," and delicere "to allure, entice" (see delicious). Meaning "easily broken" is recorded from 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper