• enPR: sŭt'(ə)l, IPA: /ˈsʌt(ə)l/, [ˈsʌɾɫ̩]

subtle (comparative subtler, superlative subtlest)

  1. Hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable.
    The difference is subtle, but you can hear it if you listen carefully.
    • 1712, Richard Blackmore, Creation: A Philosophical Poem. Demonstrating the Existence and Providence of a God. In Seven Books, book I, London: Printed for S. Buckley, at the Dolphin in Little-Britain; and J[acob] Tonson, at Shakespear's Head over-against Catherine-Street in the Strand, OCLC 731619916 ↗; 5th edition, Dublin: Printed by S. Powell, for G. Risk, G. Ewing, and W. Smith, in Dame's-street, 1727, OCLC 728300884 ↗, page 7 ↗:
      The mighty Magnet from the Center darts / This ſtrong, tho' ſubtile Force, thro' all the Parts: / Its active Rays ejaculated thence, / Irradiate all the wide Circumference.
  2. (of a thing) Cleverly contrived.
  3. (of a person or animal) Cunning, skillful.
  4. Insidious, deceptive, malicious.
    • 1623, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard the Third, Act IV, scene 4:
      Thy age confirmed, proud, subtle, bloody, treacherous.
  5. Tenuous; rarefied; of low density or thin consistency.
  6. (obsolete) Refined; exquisite.
Synonyms Antonyms Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • Italian: sottile
  • Russian: хи́трый

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