subtle

Something that is subtle is not obvious: a professional food taster might be able to perceive subtle differences of flavor that most people don't notice.

Subtle is used for things that are hard to describe because of their complexity or delicacy: a way of thinking, arguing, or creating a work of art. The word is pronounced like "suttle" and it was originally spelled that way when it was borrowed from Old French, but the b got imported to make the word look more like its ultimate source, the Latin adjective subtilis. If you try to pronounce the b, your ignorance of how to say the word properly won't be very subtle!

DEFINITIONS OF: subtle

1

adj difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze

“his whole attitude had undergone a subtle change”
“a subtle difference”
Synonyms:
elusive
impalpable
imperceptible to the senses or the mind

adj able to make fine distinctions

“a subtle mind”
Synonyms
perceptive
having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment

adj working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way

“a subtle poison”
Synonyms:
insidious, pernicious
harmful
causing or capable of causing harm
WORD FAMILY
USAGE EXAMPLES