Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Date: 1300-1400
Language: Old French
Origin: soutil, from Latin subtilis 'finely woven, subtle', from tela 'something woven'

subtle

adjective
     
sub‧tle comparative subtler or, more subtle, superlative subtlest
1 not easy to notice or understand unless you pay careful attention [≠ obvious]:
The pictures are similar, but there are subtle differences between them.
The warning signs of the disease are so subtle that they are often ignored.
a subtle form of racism
subtle taste/flavour/smell etc
The flavour of the dried berries is more subtle.
The dish had a subtle hint of ginger.
2 behaving in a skilful and clever way, especially using indirect methods or language to hide what you are trying to do:
I think we need a more subtle approach.
a subtle plan
subtle about
She wasn't very subtle about it. She just said she didn't love him any more.
3 very clever in noticing and understanding things [↪ sensitive]:
a subtle mind
subtly adverb:
a subtly different colour

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