Definition of dainty in US English:



  • 1Delicately small and pretty.

    ‘a dainty lace handkerchief’
    • ‘Poe pauses, then wipes his lips with a rather dainty handkerchief.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘St Mark's Anglican Church resembles a dainty Wendy house with gothic windows while Catholic St Patrick's transepts make it larger, more eager.’
    • ‘But their beautifying objects are usually hidden inside dainty purses or roomy bags and the article in question usually comes in milder colours.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘We climbed a winding wooden staircase up into a quaint little room filled with over-stuffed sofas and dainty tables.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the medieval ages, knights displayed dainty handkerchiefs given to them by their lady-love.’
    • ‘Katrina held up a light blue diamond flower, which hung delicately from a dainty chain.’
    • ‘My feet remained bare while she had dainty slippers on.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Carefully she pulled the dress over her undergarments, and lightly slid her feet into the dainty shoes that her mother had once bought her.’
    • ‘She would pause, attentive, and then her eyes would guiltily travel to the dainty suede moccasins on her feet.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Well, it is a lightweight, intricately entwined, sparkling dainty flat chain in yellow and white gold in combination with coloured silk threads.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Florals are just as adaptable, ranging from retro-flavoured patterns - think chintzy 1940s tearooms - to bold blooms and dainty petals.’
    1. 1.1 (of a person) delicate and graceful in build or movement.
      • ‘Her dainty feet padded across the floor and made no sound.’
      • ‘Mary was fair and dainty and delicate, everything that a good lady was.’
      • ‘She was dainty, with short black hair and perfectly painted red fingernails.’
      • ‘I have big feet like my dad, but small dainty hands like my mom.’
      • ‘She is dainty and makes people feel protective of her.’
      • ‘Slowly and shufflingly, the dainty child rose to her feet.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Their looks and attitudes came from their flamboyant father Darcy, rather than their beautiful and dainty mother Josie.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I slipped my dainty feet into the black pointy shoes, and I stood looking sideways at their reflection in the mirror.’
      • ‘Mother and daughter danced for a few moments, Molly spinning on tiptoes like a dainty ballerina, Christina gracefully moving to the beat.’
      • ‘Keira thought the name ‘Clarissa’ was the kind of thing you'd name a pretty, dainty little ballerina girl.’
      • ‘He dreamt of holding her fragile body in his arms and kissing her sweet dainty lips.’
      • ‘Alicia was certain that if only she had been born pretty and dainty like her mother, her life would have been much easier.’
      • ‘She stands just five feet tall, but her dainty exterior belies the inner determination that has erupted through the surface of her ill-health.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Mona always said that she was fat, when in reality, she was dainty with a slight build.’
      • ‘She looks down her dainty nose, her delicate-featured face wrinkling in genteel distaste.’
      • ‘Tracy King was a dainty, petite blonde with platinum hair and a blindingly white smile.’
      • ‘They even brought along with them a dainty woman named Mercedes, who was Charles' wife and Hal's older sister.’
      delicate, neat, refined, tasteful, fine, elegant, exquisite
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    2. 1.2 (of food) particularly good to eat.
      ‘a dainty morsel’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And then there's food - glorious food - tables groaning with breads, pies, fruitcakes and dainty sweets wrapped with red and green ribbon.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They consisted of many appetizers, including German salads, rare caviars, mushrooms and other dainty delicacies - all washed down with various kinds of vodkas.’
      • ‘Again, dainty dumplings swim in soup, but these are packed powerfully with a spicy punch.’
      • ‘Our cheerful waitress brings out dainty sandwiches, tea cakes and cookies - all served on lovely china.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Ahmed took great delight in fixing an assortment of dainty little sandwiches to serve at this daily ritual.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘On the other hand, it is the dainty and refined accompaniment to cucumber sandwiches.’
      • ‘I sipped pink punch, ate dainty sugar cakes with strawberries on top, and stayed at Tom's side every moment.’
      • ‘Now is the chance to prove to your acquaintances that the days of small cucumber sandwiches and dainty cakes have not gone for good!’
      • ‘She exhaled lightly before carving away at the dainty steak on her plate before her.’
      • ‘More likely, she found comfort in the selection of desserts, which are refined, even dainty, compared with the rest of the menu.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Between bites of dainty sandwiches made with just-baked Yarrows bread, Noel says he dreamed of going to university in England.’
      • ‘Hence men who seek their own welfare should always honour women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food.’
      • ‘The ability to cut very thin bread was greatly prized and dainty bread and butter was often served for afternoon tea.’
      • ‘My pleasure was always based on greed rather than some Epicurian assessment of dainty morsels.’
      tasty, delicious, choice, palatable, luscious, mouth-watering, delectable, toothsome, succulent, juicy
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  • 2Fastidious or difficult to please, typically 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Also, it's not as if there were a dainty lady around here who would scream and faint dead away at my shocking condition.’
    • ‘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.’
    fastidious, fussy, hard to please, finicky, finical, faddish, squeamish
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usually dainties
  • Something good to eat; a delicacy.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We feasted on shrimp, crawfish, pralines, and other dainties.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These dainties are consumed by groups of tourists, who eat in prim little bites and whisper among themselves like they're sitting in church.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Our youth love luxury, they contradict their parents, gobble up dainties from the table, and tyrannise their teachers.’
    • ‘It was extravagantly decorated and a side table was filled with small treats and dainties.’
    • ‘There will be door prizes as well as free coffee and dainties.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Toasted breads, luscious soup and other dainties were consumed before Sam arose from his seat to check the mail.’
    • ‘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.’
    delicacy, tasty morsel, titbit, fancy, luxury, treat, nibble, savoury, appetizer, bonne bouche, confection, bonbon
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Middle English (as noun): from Old French daintie, deintie ‘choice morsel, pleasure’, from Latin dignitas ‘worthiness or beauty’, from dignus ‘worthy’.