Definition of dainty in English:



  • 1Delicately small and pretty.

    ‘a dainty lace handkerchief’
    ‘the china cup seemed too dainty in his large hands’
    • ‘Carefully she pulled the dress over her undergarments, and lightly slid her feet into the dainty shoes that her mother had once bought her.’
    • ‘The costumes feature authentic Victorian designs, with men in traditional blue and white sailor suites and ladies adorned with bustles, dainty hats and glittering evening gowns.’
    • ‘Florals are just as adaptable, ranging from retro-flavoured patterns - think chintzy 1940s tearooms - to bold blooms and dainty petals.’
    • ‘Staples of the look have been creeping into mainstream fashion for a couple of years: three-quarter length sleeves, dainty cardis and calf-cropped capri pants.’
    • ‘Beside St. Mary's there is a short row of small, dainty cottages, administered by the Church, for the use of its employees and other deserving families.’
    • ‘Katrina held up a light blue diamond flower, which hung delicately from a dainty chain.’
    • ‘It was wooden like the rest of the ship, but it was a small, rather pretty little room, with dainty curtains over the circular windows and a nice rug on the floor.’
    • ‘That was back in 1903, and the editor's room was later described as being like a woman's boudoir, with dainty wall mirrors, chintz curtains and Queen Anne chairs.’
    • ‘But the flesh-coloured chiffon was covered in delicate embroidery and the revealing bodice took refuge in an ultra feminine jacket with dainty ruffling on the collar and cuff.’
    • ‘My feet remained bare while she had dainty slippers on.’
    • ‘St Mark's Anglican Church resembles a dainty Wendy house with gothic windows while Catholic St Patrick's transepts make it larger, more eager.’
    • ‘We climbed a winding wooden staircase up into a quaint little room filled with over-stuffed sofas and dainty tables.’
    • ‘She would pause, attentive, and then her eyes would guiltily travel to the dainty suede moccasins on her feet.’
    • ‘Popping their heads through the leaves under the trees is a remarkable collection of daffodils - some of which show signs of being very old, dainty varieties.’
    • ‘Poe pauses, then wipes his lips with a rather dainty handkerchief.’
    • ‘‘Girlie’ skirts and dresses are back as well, and pairing a very dainty skirt with flip flops and a plain T-shirt is a look you'll be seeing a lot of.’
    • ‘But their beautifying objects are usually hidden inside dainty purses or roomy bags and the article in question usually comes in milder colours.’
    • ‘Well, it is a lightweight, intricately entwined, sparkling dainty flat chain in yellow and white gold in combination with coloured silk threads.’
    • ‘In the medieval ages, knights displayed dainty handkerchiefs given to them by their lady-love.’
    • ‘Rather more plush-looking are the women's evening shoes from the turn of the 20th century, fashioned from dainty red satin and black lace.’
    1. 1.1 (of a person) delicate and graceful in build or movement.
      ‘he is one of the daintiest players in the game’
      • ‘Behind the trappings of old age, I knew this woman must have been uncommonly beautiful in her youth: high cheek bones, a swan-like neck, trim and dainty with long flowing locks of hair.’
      • ‘I have big feet like my dad, but small dainty hands like my mom.’
      • ‘She stands just five feet tall, but her dainty exterior belies the inner determination that has erupted through the surface of her ill-health.’
      • ‘Their looks and attitudes came from their flamboyant father Darcy, rather than their beautiful and dainty mother Josie.’
      • ‘She was dainty, with short black hair and perfectly painted red fingernails.’
      • ‘At first I had named her for the little bird because she was so dainty; then I found out her other virtue and her name applied even better.’
      • ‘Slowly and shufflingly, the dainty child rose to her feet.’
      • ‘Alicia was certain that if only she had been born pretty and dainty like her mother, her life would have been much easier.’
      • ‘Her dainty feet padded across the floor and made no sound.’
      • ‘He dreamt of holding her fragile body in his arms and kissing her sweet dainty lips.’
      • ‘Mona always said that she was fat, when in reality, she was dainty with a slight build.’
      • ‘They even brought along with them a dainty woman named Mercedes, who was Charles' wife and Hal's older sister.’
      • ‘She is dainty and makes people feel protective of her.’
      • ‘Mother and daughter danced for a few moments, Molly spinning on tiptoes like a dainty ballerina, Christina gracefully moving to the beat.’
      • ‘Lastly, I would like to say a person might not be very pretty or very dainty; that is not what I am trying to talk about.’
      • ‘Tracy King was a dainty, petite blonde with platinum hair and a blindingly white smile.’
      • ‘Keira thought the name ‘Clarissa’ was the kind of thing you'd name a pretty, dainty little ballerina girl.’
      • ‘Mary was fair and dainty and delicate, everything that a good lady was.’
      • ‘I slipped my dainty feet into the black pointy shoes, and I stood looking sideways at their reflection in the mirror.’
      • ‘She looks down her dainty nose, her delicate-featured face wrinkling in genteel distaste.’
      delicate, neat, refined, tasteful, fine, elegant, exquisite
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of food) particularly good to eat and served in a small portion.
      ‘a dainty morsel’
      • ‘Sweets come in many shapes, sticky buns with cream and jam, hot rolls with cinnamon and raisins, dainty cakes of assorted varieties, and sweet cream butter.’
      • ‘Now is the chance to prove to your acquaintances that the days of small cucumber sandwiches and dainty cakes have not gone for good!’
      • ‘My pleasure was always based on greed rather than some Epicurian assessment of dainty morsels.’
      • ‘She exhaled lightly before carving away at the dainty steak on her plate before her.’
      • ‘Between bites of dainty sandwiches made with just-baked Yarrows bread, Noel says he dreamed of going to university in England.’
      • ‘Again, dainty dumplings swim in soup, but these are packed powerfully with a spicy punch.’
      • ‘I sipped pink punch, ate dainty sugar cakes with strawberries on top, and stayed at Tom's side every moment.’
      • ‘Imagine stodge in the middle of August, when all you want is a dainty cucumber sandwich and a bowl of strawberries before skipping off for a game of tennis.’
      • ‘This sausage-like concoction is sliced into dainty rounds and served with sweet dipping sauce.’
      • ‘My mother-in-law's sandwiches are the dainty cut-off-crusts variety - so thin and delicate that my family barely recognises them as sandwiches.’
      • ‘We had cod goujons, which came with tartar sauce, and a slab of flavoursome chicken liver paté with a sweet redcurrant sauce and dainty triangles of toast.’
      • ‘They consisted of many appetizers, including German salads, rare caviars, mushrooms and other dainty delicacies - all washed down with various kinds of vodkas.’
      • ‘More likely, she found comfort in the selection of desserts, which are refined, even dainty, compared with the rest of the menu.’
      • ‘The ability to cut very thin bread was greatly prized and dainty bread and butter was often served for afternoon tea.’
      • ‘My first meal was a dainty foie gras burger, served in all its unctuous richness, without burger meat, on a toasted, tea-sandwich-size bun.’
      • ‘Hence men who seek their own welfare should always honour women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food.’
      • ‘On the other hand, it is the dainty and refined accompaniment to cucumber sandwiches.’
      • ‘Our cheerful waitress brings out dainty sandwiches, tea cakes and cookies - all served on lovely china.’
      • ‘And then there's food - glorious food - tables groaning with breads, pies, fruitcakes and dainty sweets wrapped with red and green ribbon.’
      • ‘Ahmed took great delight in fixing an assortment of dainty little sandwiches to serve at this daily ritual.’
      tasty, delicious, choice, palatable, luscious, mouth-watering, delectable, toothsome, succulent, juicy
      View synonyms
  • 2Fastidious, especially concerning food.

    ‘a dainty appetite’
    • ‘The dainty ladies and gentlemen who first began to use soap were the harbingers of the big-scale production of soap for the common man.’
    • ‘Apparently, some dainty fans' feelings were so very hurt.’
    • ‘Major news outlets are hardly inclined to be up in arms about the government's record of deception when they remain so dainty about critiquing their own.’
    • ‘Also, it's not as if there were a dainty lady around here who would scream and faint dead away at my shocking condition.’
    • ‘I rang up Luke to ask if I was being too dainty in thinking it ghoulish to market a film of somebody contracting a deadly disease.’
    fastidious, fussy, hard to please, finicky, finical, faddish, squeamish
    View synonyms


  • Something good to eat; a delicacy.

    ‘home-made breads, jams, and dainties’
    • ‘We feasted on shrimp, crawfish, pralines, and other dainties.’
    • ‘Toasted breads, luscious soup and other dainties were consumed before Sam arose from his seat to check the mail.’
    • ‘We had bacon and cabbage most days for dinner, but when our parents went to Limerick we could be assured of getting some dainties that evening.’
    • ‘I would have liked to have seen the survey happen every five years or so, but there was really too much on my plate to add another little dainty.’
    • ‘They had not found a real place in a set meal, except among the miscellaneous sweetmeats offered as dainties at the end.’
    • ‘The braised buffalo-carp tail has a somewhat off-putting name - neither the carp nor the buffalo for which it is named tops my list of subtle dainties - but the dish was outstanding.’
    • ‘Our youth love luxury, they contradict their parents, gobble up dainties from the table, and tyrannise their teachers.’
    • ‘There were just dainties, and simple foods, like vegetables with dip, cracker dishes, cheese and fruit platters, and at least half a dozen trays of desserts.’
    • ‘Tiered trays come to the table loaded with the proverbial cucumber sandwiches, along with scones served with Devonshire clotted cream, dozens of dainties and many other treats.’
    • ‘Together they went into Maude's dining room for tea, cocoa, and the dainties Maude was sure to have prepared.’
    • ‘Still lifes usually show beautiful vessels filled with wine and appetizing fruit or other dainties invitingly arranged on lovely china.’
    • ‘These dainties are consumed by groups of tourists, who eat in prim little bites and whisper among themselves like they're sitting in church.’
    • ‘There will be door prizes as well as free coffee and dainties.’
    • ‘It was extravagantly decorated and a side table was filled with small treats and dainties.’
    delicacy, tasty morsel, titbit, fancy, luxury, treat, nibble, savoury, appetizer, bonne bouche, confection, bonbon
    View synonyms


Middle English (as noun): from Old French daintie, deintie ‘choice morsel, pleasure’, from Latin dignitas ‘worthiness or beauty’, from dignus ‘worthy’.