Definition of subtlety in US English:

subtlety

noun

  • 1The quality or state of being subtle.

    ‘the textural subtlety of Degas’
    • ‘Let's have a bit of subtlety and sophistication here, qualities that postmodernists are always urging us to adopt.’
    • ‘All the texture and subtlety of the script are brought out by a magnificent cast.’
    • ‘At least there was now some quality in the hitting, even if subtlety remained notably absent.’
    • ‘A new way of imagining the song glimmers and vanishes before the chorus, as the subdued arrangement loses its subtlety and its way.’
    • ‘They have many qualities, but subtlety is not their strong suit.’
    • ‘Today's methods are wider ranging, able to analyse with greater subtlety.’
    • ‘But this subtlety is swept aside in performances that are simply too hard-driven.’
    • ‘Not exactly anyone's choice for purveyors of subtlety and wit.’
    • ‘This was not simply due to their technical excellence, but their subtlety and force in emotional expression.’
    • ‘Excellent dialogue and wryly amusing situations were wrung hard and without subtlety by the two main actors.’
    • ‘I could forgive the fetishizing of martyrdom if the film displayed a hint of subtlety or emotional resonance.’
    • ‘Most significantly, for all that they must be applied with subtlety of understanding, these techniques are fixed.’
    • ‘By doing so, they are making a political point, albeit with sledge-hammer subtlety.’
    • ‘In fact, she manages to address most things with subtlety and dignity!’
    • ‘Characters sob or laugh hysterically rather than just frown or smile - subtlety is nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘Instead, there are collages of sound devoid of subtlety; colliding rhythms that make noise rather than sense.’
    • ‘He didn't seem to notice - probably already had all the imagination and subtlety branded out of him during his GCSEs.’
    • ‘The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sing with subtlety as well as grace, in a CD well worth investigating.’
    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. 1.1 A subtle distinction, feature, or argument.
      ‘the subtleties of English grammar’
      • ‘It's also true that you miss many of the nuances and subtleties of a finely crafted print.’
      • ‘Every time you go back to it, you can pick up different subtleties, nuances of flavour that you perhaps missed earlier.’
      • ‘These subtleties and uncertainties have encouraged speculation.’
      • ‘She also had an unusually keen grasp of the subtleties of croquet.’
      • ‘You don't understand or register subtleties of human behaviour.’
      • ‘It was a mixture of the cheap yellow home-peroxided hair and their utter lack of humour, in all its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘As an adult there were many subtleties that had completely escaped me, when I had originally watched the show.’
      • ‘There were also subtleties that enlivened the action without detracting from the music.’
      • ‘They are not interested in the diplomatic subtleties of what went on between the Quartet in New York.’
      • ‘It's a complex drink and though the main distinctions are vintage, tawny and ruby, numerous subtleties range in between.’
      • ‘There are many tribes within the generic group of Touaregs, each distinguished by subtleties of dress.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each song is a gem waiting for the viewer to uncover it, to behold its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances associated with all these modes of address would fill a sizeable volume.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances of psychiatric diagnosis render certainties virtually beyond reach in most situations.’
      • ‘The subtleties and variances of language that can only come through in conversational speech are often lost.’
      • ‘Finns also listen very carefully and easily pick up subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘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

/ˈsədltē//ˈsədlti/