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See more synonyms for subtlety on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural sub·tle·ties.
  1. the state or quality of being subtle.
  2. delicacy or nicety of character or meaning.
  3. acuteness or penetration of mind; delicacy of discrimination.
  4. a fine-drawn distinction; refinement of reasoning: the subtleties of logic.
  5. something subtle.
  6. 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.
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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 formshy·per·sub·tle·ty, nounnon·sub·tle·ty, noun, plural non·sub·tle·ties.o·ver·sub·tle·ty, noun, plural o·ver·sub·tle·ties.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for subtleties

nuance, intricacy, elegance, innuendo, distinction

Examples from the Web for subtleties

Contemporary Examples of subtleties

Historical Examples of subtleties

  • When she wasn't there I tried to reason myself out of these subtleties.

  • The staff-captain did not understand these subtleties, shook his head, and smiled slyly.

    A Hero of Our Time

    M. Y. Lermontov

  • But these and other subtleties of language escaped the observation of Plato.

  • What but subtleties of the Scotists: quiddities, formalities, etc.!

  • The subtleties of passion are now realised for the first time.

    John Lyly

    John Dover Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for subtleties


noun plural -ties
  1. the state or quality of being subtle; delicacy
  2. a fine distinction or the ability to make such a distinction
  3. something subtle
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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 subtleties



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper