Definition of delicacy in US English:



  • 1Fineness or intricacy of texture or structure.

    ‘miniature pearls of exquisite delicacy’
    • ‘The structure shimmers with delicacy, and it is still standing after 160 years.’
    • ‘Three bars later, though, he'd be back tickling the finer notes out of Beethoven with utmost delicacy.’
    • ‘Set in Khartoum and London, the book charts the emotional and spiritual life of its Muslim heroine with tremendous grace and delicacy of expression.’
    • ‘Not much variation here, not much finesse, delicacy, lightness, or the Exotic other.’
    • ‘Beautiful juxtapositions of hardness and softness, strength and delicacy, men's work and women's work - and all within the context of remaking material history.’
    • ‘The DVD brings out these fleeting changes of visual texture with delicacy and firmness.’
    • ‘Her interpretation was always clear in texture, with an inner calm and beautiful delicacy in the variations, which built towards a thrilling climax.’
    • ‘This is what the record sounds like and it has earned the above rating on pure execution within its sub-genre, structural delicacy, and elegance.’
    • ‘The exhibition will explore the world of plant and flower painting, combining exquisite scientific detail with beauty, delicacy and expressiveness.’
    • ‘Then, in 1963, he travelled to California and developed a Pop Art style all his own - blazing colours, delicacy of line, geometrical buildings painted in oil and acrylic.’
    • ‘Certainly, it is not a seductive garment and the vision from inside pretty limited and you can only guess at the heat, but the colours and delicacy of its cloth is exquisite.’
    • ‘The delicacy of the animation allows us to feel the texture of his fur, the warmth of his body.’
    • ‘Many shots are composed with such delicacy and grace that I forgot I was watching a television program.’
    • ‘These structures are delicate and avoidance of injury requires delicacy and precision while performing the surgery.’
    • ‘Through the whole of the present exhibition, the changing shades of sepia, their delicacy and texture, create an impression of a sadness deep as a wound.’
    • ‘The result is wines unique in the world for their combination of low alcohol (often only about eight per cent), striking aroma, high extract, and delicacy of texture.’
    • ‘The delicacy of the molecular structure and of the dynamics may also play a role.’
    • ‘The sheer variety, delicacy, subtlety and compulsive fertility of her work is awe-inspiring.’
    • ‘The fine furnishings bespoke delicacy and elegance that belied the shop's humble line of business.’
    fineness, exquisiteness, delicateness, intricacy, daintiness, airiness, elegance, gracefulness, grace
    sensitivity, precision, accuracy, exactness
    View synonyms
  • 2Susceptibility to illness or adverse conditions; fragility.

    • ‘Catalano, who could be robust and forthright in the expression of his views, was a poet of great delicacy and precision, a master of the fragilities.’
    • ‘No, saris are not symbols of delicacy, of fragile femininity; of posh don't-get-your-hands dirty pettiness!’
    • ‘The chapter on the nest, its delicacy, its fragile nature and the monumental painful effort of the bird to build it is wonderful.’
    • ‘He claimed to have painted these pictures from the need to make a living, yet they have a fragile delicacy that is precious and rare.’
    • ‘Women's smallness, they thought, was dependent on bone size, which provided an absolute index of women's weakness and delicacy.’
    • ‘It was a dark song, with beautiful threads of delicacy and fragility weaved into both its lyrical and musical content.’
    sickliness, ill health, poor health, valetudinarianism, frailty, frailness, fragility, feebleness, weakness, debility
    View synonyms
  • 3Tact and consideration.

    ‘I have to treat this matter with the utmost delicacy’
    • ‘Personally, I want to say he was a ‘gentleman,’ to signify some old fashioned manner he had, a courtesy and delicacy and diplomacy.’
    • ‘Full of ink, she held it out to Arthur with the utmost delicacy.’
    • ‘Establishing security among elated, frightened people requires delicacy as well as strength.’
    • ‘As ghost stories go, this one is handled with great subtlety and delicacy - in fact, one could argue perhaps a little too much of both.’
    • ‘So intent are they upon handling each attendant issue with the utmost delicacy that they risk losing sight of the greater picture.’
    • ‘My father carries on talking in this gentle voice, and I can see now that he has prepared for this carefully, and is handling the situation with great finesse and delicacy.’
    • ‘In his article he discusses the matter with considerable delicacy.’
    • ‘You get a sense of shared solitude, conveyed subtly but precisely, with masterly delicacy and without ostentatious ‘acting’.’
    • ‘I learnt that the most precious things in my life have never been treated with any delicacy.’
    • ‘He unravels the tangled strands of social identity and interests that surrounded these protests with considerable delicacy and insight.’
    • ‘Before you start, you have to approach the situation with the utmost delicacy.’
    care, sensitivity, tact, discretion, diplomacy, finesse, subtlety, consideration, considerateness, sensibility
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 The quality of requiring discretion or sensitivity.
      ‘the delicacy of the situation’
      • ‘The story of a nun and a marine could have easily become a cliché, but in their hands, it comes across with sensitivity and delicacy.’
      • ‘These two tentative explorations of gay subplots were handled with typical early-'80s delicacy and discretion.’
      • ‘A topic that needs to be treated with delicacy and discretion.’
      • ‘This was a situation which the arbitrator found to be one of ‘obvious delicacy… one of considerable difficulty’.’
      • ‘The very delicacy of their situation is what provokes the attention-seeking behaviour.’
      difficulty, trickiness
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2 Accuracy of perception; sensitiveness.
      • ‘This is one of the novels in which, with much humour and delicacy of perception, the author depicts the reaction of different personality types to the new environment.’
      • ‘The assessment of these injuries is a highly individual matter which requires great delicacy.…’
      • ‘Can she who professed delicacy of sentiment and sincere regard for me, use me so very basely and so very cruelly?’
  • 4A choice or expensive food.

    ‘asparagus was considered a delicacy by the ancient Greeks’
    • ‘You might even develop an appetite for such delicacies as foie gras and bordelaise dessert canelais on the way.’
    • ‘Japan is known to be a densely populated country, and there is a great demand for food and cultural delicacies.’
    • ‘He is running a locally acclaimed food stall offering tokek meat delicacies on the menu.’
    • ‘Each of these delicacies can be made with your choice of vegetables, chicken, shrimp or goat.’
    • ‘The restaurant also boasts a seafood section of its dishes with delicacies to which anyone could be drawn.’
    • ‘The theme had been of country cuisine with delicious curry and corn delicacies.’
    • ‘A stretched table filled with all the delicacies of Middle Eastern cuisine.’
    • ‘This one has mangos in all dishes from starters, soups to main course delicacies and desserts.’
    • ‘Every Tuesday is a festival of Asian delicacies - all kinds of fragrant curries and fresh fruits.’
    • ‘When it's time for the party to begin I see large silver dishes steaming with delicacies.’
    • ‘The exhibition halls will also host a food court providing delicacies from many countries.’
    • ‘We believe good chefs are those who create delicacies out of ordinary ingredients.’
    • ‘In Vienna these traditional foods became delicacies to be introduced to the rest of Europe.’
    • ‘There will be five stalls for selling south Indian delicacies and the French cuisine from Pondichery.’
    • ‘We take it for granted - rare delicacies and convenience foods from every corner of the globe without season or limit.’
    • ‘Booking is essential, to savour delicacies such as pumpkin cappellini and roasted wild rabbit.’
    • ‘Extensive use of exotic ingredients make the delicacies fresh, diverse and appetizing.’
    • ‘She brought me food, a variety of safe dishes and delicacies I'd never tasted before.’
    • ‘The store has launched an appeal for local delicacies and food reared or grown in the area.’
    • ‘Spend a week in Venice mastering local delicacies such as seafood ravioli, bigoli pasta and risi e bisi soup.’
    choice food, gourmet food, dainty, treat, luxury, titbit, bonne bouche
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the senses ‘voluptuousness’ and ‘luxuriousness’): from delicate + -acy.