- thin, tenuous, or rarefied, as a fluid or an odor.
- fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand: subtle irony.
- delicate or faint and mysterious: a subtle smile.
- requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment: a subtle philosophy.
- characterized by mental acuteness or penetration: a subtle understanding.
- cunning, wily, or crafty: a subtle liar.
- insidious in operation: subtle poison.
- skillful, clever, or ingenious: a subtle painter.
Origin of subtle
SynonymsSee more synonyms for subtle on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for unsubtle
That word “denialism” is particularly profane, with its unsubtle invocation of the Holocaust.Why It Was Right to Question Rolling Stone’s U-VA Rape Story
December 5, 2014
Allie calls it “Fat Boy,” an unsubtle portmanteau of the nicknames—“Fat Man” and “Little Boy”—given the bombs dropped over Japan.American Dreams: ‘The Mosquito Coast’ by Paul Theroux
September 20, 2012
Most likely this is an unsubtle nod to critics that Bush knew Cheney might have been a problem.George Bush's Book Will Offend the Right
November 10, 2010
She was amazing in a sort of unsubtle way; crudely amazing—I thought.Chance
Inspector McWalsh poured his unsubtle scorn on such writings for ten full minutes.Anthony Trent, Master Criminal
Mrs. Ginsburg rocked and fanned rhythmically; her unsubtle lips curled upward with the subtle smile of a zingaro.Just Around the Corner
She knew him to be too simple, too unsubtle, to detect the art which lent power and pathos to her words.A German Pompadour
In his unsubtle makeup the measure of his devotion was as great as the measure of his unspoiled manhood.Little Lost Sister
- not subtle; obvious or blatant
- not immediately obvious or comprehensible
- difficult to detect or analyse, often through being delicate or highly refineda subtle scent
- showing or making or capable of showing or making fine distinctions of meaning
- marked by or requiring mental acuteness or ingenuity; discriminating
- delicate or fainta subtle shade
- cunning or wilya subtle rogue
- operating or executed in secreta subtle intrigue
Word Origin and History for unsubtle
c.1300, sutel, soutil, in reference to things, "of thin consistency;" in reference to craftsmen, "skilled, clever," from Old French soutil, from Latin subtilis "fine, thin, delicate, finely woven," from sub "under" (see sub-) + -tilis, from tela "web" and texere "to weave" (see texture). The spelling with -b- reflects confusion with subtile. Most non-material senses were present by late 14c.