See more synonyms for subtlety on
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.

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for subtlety

nuance, intricacy, elegance, innuendo, distinction

Examples from the Web for subtlety

Contemporary Examples of subtlety

Historical Examples of subtlety

  • However, if the man worked with subtlety, the sea likewise worked with subtlety.

  • They bestowed upon him every beauty of person and every subtlety of wit.


    William Godwin

  • If the emperor say, 'You are speaking of Macedonius; I see your subtlety.

    The Formation of Christendom, Volume VI

    Thomas W. (Thomas William) Allies

  • Karl had not the subtlety to retort, “Ay, but does it say what we like?”

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • And this notion of his was not any proof of want of subtlety on his part.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

British Dictionary definitions for subtlety


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
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 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