From Middle English sotil, subtil, from Old French soutil, later subtil, French subtil, from Latin subtilis (“fine, thin, slender, delicate”); probably, originally, “woven fine”, and from sub (“under”) + tela (“a web”), from texere (“to weave”).
- Hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable.
- The difference is subtle, but you can hear it if you listen carefully.
- (of a thing) Cleverly contrived.
- (of a person or animal) Cunning, skillful.
- Tenuous; rarefied; of low density or thin consistency.
- (hard to grasp): simple
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
- subtle in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
- subtle in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
- Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989
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