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Pronunciation (US): 

 Dictionary entry overview: What does subtle mean? 

SUBTLE (adjective)
  The adjective SUBTLE has 4 senses:

1. be difficult to detect or grasp by the mind
2. faint and difficult to analyze
3. able to make fine distinctions
4. working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way

  Familiarity information: SUBTLE used as an adjective is uncommon.

 Dictionary entry details 

SUBTLE (adjective)

Sense 1subtle [BACK TO TOP]


Be difficult to detect or grasp by the mind


subtle; elusive

Context examples:

his whole attitude had undergone a subtle change / a subtle difference / that elusive thing the soul


impalpable (imperceptible to the senses or the mind)

Sense 2subtle [BACK TO TOP]


Faint and difficult to analyze

Context example:

subtle aromas


delicate (exquisitely fine and subtle and pleasing; susceptible to injury)

Sense 3subtle [BACK TO TOP]


Able to make fine distinctions

Context example:

a subtle mind


perceptive (having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment)

Sense 4subtle [BACK TO TOP]


Working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way


pernicious; insidious; subtle

Context examples:

glaucoma is an insidious disease / a subtle poison


harmful (causing or capable of causing harm)

 Learn English with... Proverbs of the week 
"Familiarity breeds contempt." (English proverb)

"«He who teaches himself hath a fool for a teacher», but he who does not teach himself has no teachers at all." (Christopher Berkeley)

"Close the door from which the wind blows and relax." (Arabic proverb)

"Every little pot has a fitting lid." (Dutch proverb)

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