Definition of subtlety in US English:

subtlety

nounPlural subtleties

  • 1The quality or state of being subtle.

    ‘the textural subtlety of Degas’
    • ‘He didn't seem to notice - probably already had all the imagination and subtlety branded out of him during his GCSEs.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sing with subtlety as well as grace, in a CD well worth investigating.’
    • ‘Today's methods are wider ranging, able to analyse with greater subtlety.’
    • ‘Characters sob or laugh hysterically rather than just frown or smile - subtlety is nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘At least there was now some quality in the hitting, even if subtlety remained notably absent.’
    • ‘Let's have a bit of subtlety and sophistication here, qualities that postmodernists are always urging us to adopt.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They have many qualities, but subtlety is not their strong suit.’
    • ‘I could forgive the fetishizing of martyrdom if the film displayed a hint of subtlety or emotional resonance.’
    • ‘Instead, there are collages of sound devoid of subtlety; colliding rhythms that make noise rather than sense.’
    • ‘This was not simply due to their technical excellence, but their subtlety and force in emotional expression.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Not exactly anyone's choice for purveyors of subtlety and wit.’
    • ‘All the texture and subtlety of the script are brought out by a magnificent cast.’
    • ‘By doing so, they are making a political point, albeit with sledge-hammer subtlety.’
    • ‘Most significantly, for all that they must be applied with subtlety of understanding, these techniques are fixed.’
    • ‘Is Gallic subtlety any match for the brute force of History?’
    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 the ability to enjoy art with discrimination and an appreciation of its subtleties.’
      • ‘There were also subtleties that enlivened the action without detracting from the music.’
      • ‘The subtleties of the font don't translate well to pixels, and the proportions of the letters can cause problems.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances associated with all these modes of address would fill a sizeable volume.’
      • ‘Each song is a gem waiting for the viewer to uncover it, to behold its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘Every time you go back to it, you can pick up different subtleties, nuances of flavour that you perhaps missed earlier.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There are many tribes within the generic group of Touaregs, each distinguished by subtleties of dress.’
      • ‘These subtleties and uncertainties have encouraged speculation.’
      • ‘You don't understand or register subtleties of human behaviour.’
      • ‘The subtleties and variances of language that can only come through in conversational speech are often lost.’
      • ‘It's a complex drink and though the main distinctions are vintage, tawny and ruby, numerous subtleties range in between.’
      • ‘Finns also listen very carefully and easily pick up subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘She is in her element, understanding all the nuances and subtleties of what went on and why.’
      • ‘She also had an unusually keen grasp of the subtleties of croquet.’
      • ‘It was a mixture of the cheap yellow home-peroxided hair and their utter lack of humour, in all its subtleties and nuances.’
      • ‘They are not interested in the diplomatic subtleties of what went on between the Quartet in New York.’
      • ‘The subtleties and nuances of psychiatric diagnosis render certainties virtually beyond reach in most situations.’
      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

/ˈsədlti//ˈsədltē/