Definition of subtlety in English:

subtlety

noun

mass noun
  • 1The quality or state of being subtle.

    ‘the textural subtlety of Degas’
    • ‘A new way of imagining the song glimmers and vanishes before the chorus, as the subdued arrangement loses its subtlety and its way.’
    • ‘But this subtlety is swept aside in performances that are simply too hard-driven.’
    • ‘A lot of women don't want to hurt a guy's feelings so they tend to be vague, but subtlety is lost on most men.’
    • ‘Is Gallic subtlety any match for the brute force of History?’
    • ‘Today's methods are wider ranging, able to analyse with greater subtlety.’
    • ‘All the texture and subtlety of the script are brought out by a magnificent cast.’
    • ‘Not exactly anyone's choice for purveyors of subtlety and wit.’
    • ‘He didn't seem to notice - probably already had all the imagination and subtlety branded out of him during his GCSEs.’
    • ‘They have many qualities, but subtlety is not their strong suit.’
    • ‘Instead, there are collages of sound devoid of subtlety; colliding rhythms that make noise rather than sense.’
    • ‘Let's have a bit of subtlety and sophistication here, qualities that postmodernists are always urging us to adopt.’
    • ‘At least there was now some quality in the hitting, even if subtlety remained notably absent.’
    • ‘I could forgive the fetishizing of martyrdom if the film displayed a hint of subtlety or emotional resonance.’
    • ‘By doing so, they are making a political point, albeit with sledge-hammer subtlety.’
    • ‘The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sing with subtlety as well as grace, in a CD well worth investigating.’
    • ‘Most significantly, for all that they must be applied with subtlety of understanding, these techniques are fixed.’
    • ‘Characters sob or laugh hysterically rather than just frown or smile - subtlety is nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘In fact, she manages to address most things with subtlety and dignity!’
    • ‘Excellent dialogue and wryly amusing situations were wrung hard and without subtlety by the two main actors.’
    • ‘This was not simply due to their technical excellence, but their subtlety and force in emotional expression.’
    delicacy, delicateness, subtleness, elusiveness, faintness
    astuteness, keenness, acuteness, fineness, sharpness, razor-sharpness, sharp-wittedness, canniness, shrewdness, perceptiveness, perception, discernment, sensitivity, discrimination, penetration, percipience, perspicacity, perspicuity, acuity, sagacity, wisdom, cleverness, intelligence, skilfulness, skill, artfulness, dexterity, brightness, finesse
    ingenuity, cleverness, skilfulness, expertise, adroitness, complexity, intricacy, cunning, guile, craftiness, wiliness, artfulness, deviousness
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1count noun A subtle distinction, feature, or argument.
      ‘the subtleties of English grammar’
      • ‘The subtleties and variances of language that can only come through in conversational speech are often lost.’
      • ‘It's also true that you miss many of the nuances and subtleties of a finely crafted print.’
      • ‘As an adult there were many subtleties that had completely escaped me, when I had originally watched the show.’
      • ‘She also had an unusually keen grasp of the subtleties of croquet.’
      • ‘Finns also listen very carefully and easily pick up subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘It was a mixture of the cheap yellow home-peroxided hair and their utter lack of humour, in all its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances of psychiatric diagnosis render certainties virtually beyond reach in most situations.’
      • ‘These subtleties and uncertainties have encouraged speculation.’
      • ‘She is in her element, understanding all the nuances and subtleties of what went on and why.’
      • ‘It's the ability to enjoy art with discrimination and an appreciation of its subtleties.’
      • ‘Each song is a gem waiting for the viewer to uncover it, to behold its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘There are many tribes within the generic group of Touaregs, each distinguished by subtleties of dress.’
      • ‘Every time you go back to it, you can pick up different subtleties, nuances of flavour that you perhaps missed earlier.’
      • ‘There were also subtleties that enlivened the action without detracting from the music.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances associated with all these modes of address would fill a sizeable volume.’
      • ‘It's a complex drink and though the main distinctions are vintage, tawny and ruby, numerous subtleties range in between.’
      • ‘They are not interested in the diplomatic subtleties of what went on between the Quartet in New York.’
      • ‘It's more the kind of book you want to go back and read again in more detail taking notes and picking up on the subtleties and connections you know you missed.’
      • ‘You don't understand or register subtleties of human behaviour.’
      • ‘The subtleties of the font don't translate well to pixels, and the proportions of the letters can cause problems.’
      fineness, subtleness, precision, preciseness, niceness, nicety, nuance, shade, detail, slightness, minuteness, narrowness, tenuousness, indistinctness, indefiniteness, lack of definition, elusiveness
      View synonyms

Origin

Middle English: from Old French soutilte, from Latin subtilitas, from subtilis ‘fine, delicate’ (see subtle).

Pronunciation

subtlety

/ˈsʌt(ə)lti/