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del·​i·​cate ˈde-li-kət How to pronounce delicate (audio)
: pleasing to the senses:
: generally pleasant
the climate's delicate, the air most sweetWilliam Shakespeare
: pleasing to the sense of taste or smell especially in a mild or subtle way
a delicate aroma
a robust wine will dominate delicate dishes
: marked by daintiness or charm of color, lines, or proportions
a delicate floral print
an ample tear trilled down her delicate cheekWilliam Shakespeare
: marked by fineness of structure, workmanship, or texture
a delicate tracery
a delicate lace
: marked by keen sensitivity or fine discrimination
delicate insights
a more delicate syntactic analysisR. H. Robins
: fastidious, squeamish
a person of delicate tastes
: not robust in health or constitution : weak, sickly
had been considered a delicate child
: easily torn or damaged : fragile
delicate wine glasses
a delicate flower
the delicate chain of life
: requiring careful handling:
: easily unsettled or upset
a delicate balance
the delicate relationships defined by the ConstitutionNew Yorker
: requiring skill or tact
in a delicate position
delicate negotiations
a delicate operation
: involving matters of a deeply personal nature : sensitive
this is a delicate matter. Could I possibly speak to you aloneDaphne Du Maurier
: marked by care, skill, or tact
her delicate handling of a difficult situation
: marked by great precision or sensitivity
a delicate instrument
delicately adverb


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: something delicate
usually used in plural
washing delicates by hand
Choose the Right Synonym for delicate

choice, exquisite, elegant, rare, delicate, dainty mean having qualities that appeal to a cultivated taste.

choice stresses preeminence in quality or kind.

choice fabric

exquisite implies a perfection in workmanship or design that appeals only to very sensitive taste.

an exquisite gold bracelet

elegant applies to what is rich and luxurious but restrained by good taste.

a sumptuous but elegant dining room

rare suggests an uncommon excellence.

rare beauty

delicate implies exquisiteness, subtlety, and fragility.

delicate craftsmanship

dainty sometimes carries an additional suggestion of smallness and of appeal to the eye or palate.

dainty sandwiches

Examples of delicate in a Sentence

Adjective He has a delicate stomach and often gets sick when traveling. The fabric has a delicate floral print. We hung delicate lace curtains in the windows. The tomb was adorned with delicate carvings. the delicate flavor of the wine
Recent Examples on the Web
In addition to ongoing plastic pollution and efforts to launch deep-sea mining operations, bottom trawling can raze the seafloor in a single sweep, destroying delicate organisms that take decades to grow. Priya Shukla, Forbes, 24 Feb. 2024 Also placed on the dress were delicate bows, that perfectly complemented the one in her hair. Jordan Greene, Peoplemag, 23 Feb. 2024 Her husband boiled them to avoid messes, and Grace Hall of Birmingham's Grace Calligraphy added the delicate lettering. Betsy Cribb Watson, Southern Living, 23 Feb. 2024 Gradually De Keersmaeker’s delicate nuance began to filter through. Gia Kourlas, New York Times, 23 Feb. 2024 Their ephemeral beauty, their vibrant hues, their delicate fragrance, their inherent drama—all are qualities that breathe life into our homes. Christine Chitnis, Vogue, 23 Feb. 2024 Wrapped since the 1960s, the items, and their delicate organic components, were well-preserved. Max Bennett, Discover Magazine, 22 Feb. 2024 The niche subspecialty demands delicate hands, unflappable focus, and a nuanced understanding of developmental biology. Megan Molteni, STAT, 21 Feb. 2024 The large ring had a red semi-precious stone in the center surrounded by a delicate braid-like design, a photo shows. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 21 Feb. 2024
Standard dryers also include pre-set options depending on the fabric or items being dried—towels, delicates, and permanent press may sound familiar. Kristina McGuirk, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 Sep. 2023 Dry your delicates in the washing machine and let the 7.8-cu.-ft.-capacity dryer handle the large loads and bulky items. Brittany Loggins, Good Housekeeping, 16 Aug. 2023 He’s played the song many times over the years with Crazy Horse, the International Harvesters, and Promise of the Real, but it’s never sounded this delicate. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 8 Aug. 2023 Some good news for all the over-packers out there: this expandable bag is notably spacious, with a simple but roomy interior that includes two interior sections, a cross ribbon divider, and a small zip-up pocket that could easily fit delicates. Cai Cramer, Peoplemag, 13 June 2023 The fragrance-free stain remover can be used on most fabrics including wool, workout clothes, and delicates. Brandi Fuller, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 June 2023 The spacious sink gets plenty of use for handwashing delicates, filling water bottles, and soaking swimsuits. Sarah Halverson, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 May 2023 The combination of vegetable enzymes and natural minerals work together to effectively lift dirt and grime yet are gentle enough to use on all cloth types, even delicates. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 3 Apr. 2023 These include normal, quick, heavy-duty, bulky, rinse and spin, delicates, and permanent press cycles. Kat De Naoum, Better Homes & Gardens, 5 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'delicate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Middle English delicat, from Latin delicatus given to self-indulgence, fastidious, subtly pleasing, not robust; akin to Latin delicere to allure

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of delicate was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near delicate

Cite this Entry

“Delicate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: satisfying or pleasing because of fineness or mildness
a delicate flavor
delicate blossoms
: having fineness of structure, workmanship, or texture
delicate lace
: fastidious
a person of delicate tastes
: easily torn or hurt
also : weak sense 1, sickly
was too delicate to play football
: easily unsettled or upset
a delicate balance
: resulting from or requiring skill or careful treatment
delicate handling of a difficult situation
a delicate operation
: able to sense or indicate very slight differences
a delicate instrument
delicately adverb
delicateness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on delicate

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