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a frequent misspelling of subtle.



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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


what does "suttle" mean?

“Suttle” is a common misspelling of the word subtle, which variously means “faint,” “delicate in meaning,” “slight,” and “cunning.”

It’s not too surprising people commonly misspell subtle as “suttle”: we don’t pronounce the B in this word.

Example: When I wrote the word “suttle” in my final paper, my teacher gave me a not-so-subtle correction by circling my misspelling in red several times.

Where does subtle come from?

Subtle, the correct spelling of “suttle,” was first recorded in Middle English as sotil in the late 1200s. (Our struggles with spelling subtle are far from new.) The Middle English sotil was borrowed from French, and ultimately goes back to the Latin subtilis, which means “finely spun (as of textiles),” “slender,” and “thin.”

So, why do we spell subtle with a B if we don’t say it? Well, as the above origin shows, we didn’t always spell it with a B. The Middle English sotil had no B, just as its French sources (for example, Old French sotil) had no B.

French descended from Latin, and changed many of the sounds and forms of its original parent language along the way. That included losing the B, among other things, in Latin’s subtilis.

But, around the 1500s, the English spelling of the word started adding back in the B to subtle so the word corresponded more clearly with its Latin root, subtilis. Another familiar word respelled this way is debt.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of subtle?

What are some synonyms for subtle?

What are some words that share a root or word element with subtle?

What are some words that often get used with subtle?

How is the misspelled "suttle" used in real life?

Whether misspelled by accident or lack of knowledge about its proper form, “suttle” gets used in the same way as subtle.

Try using subtle!

Which of the following is an antonym of subtle?

A. understated
B. profound
C. ignorant
D. sophisticated

Example sentences from the Web for suttle

  • Then, upon a warrant issued by Judge Loring, he was claimed as a fugitive slave by Suttle.

    Fugitive Slaves|Marion Gleason McDougall
  • Suttle afterwards declared he would not sell Burns for any sum, but that he should go back to Virginia.

    The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims|American Anti-Slavery Society
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