delicate

adjective
del·​i·​cate | \ ˈde-li-kət How to pronounce delicate (audio) \

Definition of delicate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : pleasing to the senses:
a : generally pleasant the climate's delicate, the air most sweet— William Shakespeare
b : 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
c : marked by daintiness or charm of color, lines, or proportions a delicate floral print an ample tear trilled down her delicate cheek— William Shakespeare
d : marked by fineness of structure, workmanship, or texture a delicate tracery a delicate lace
2a : marked by keen sensitivity or fine discrimination delicate insights a more delicate syntactic analysis— R. H. Robins
b : fastidious, squeamish a person of delicate tastes
3a : not robust in health or constitution : weak, sickly had been considered a delicate child
b : easily torn or damaged : fragile delicate wine glasses a delicate flower the delicate chain of life
4a : requiring careful handling:
(1) : easily unsettled or upset a delicate balance the delicate relationships defined by the ConstitutionNew Yorker
(2) : requiring skill or tact in a delicate position delicate negotiations a delicate operation
(3) : involving matters of a deeply personal nature : sensitive this is a delicate matter. Could I possibly speak to you alone— Daphne Du Maurier
b : marked by care, skill, or tact her delicate handling of a difficult situation
5 : marked by great precision or sensitivity a delicate instrument

delicate

noun

Definition of delicate (Entry 2 of 2)

: something delicate usually used in plural washing delicates by hand

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from delicate

Adjective

delicately adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for delicate

Synonyms: Adjective

airy, dainty, exquisite, nuanced, refined, subtle

Antonyms: Adjective

robust, strong, sturdy

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for delicate

Adjective

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Plus, the skin along your ribs is very delicate and could easily get scratched or even accrue some more wrinkles over time with that much wear and tear. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Don't Panic, But You've Been Wearing Your Bra Wrong Your Entire Life," 25 Apr. 2019 With Kate, her blush chiffon Alexander McQueen gown with crystal detailing at the collar was delicate and fluttery, but also not overly busy. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "How to Wear a Cape Like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle," 28 Feb. 2019 Using a small pair of scissors—an extremely delicate process with the clumsy gloves of his spacesuit—Kononenko sought to sample the exterior of the leak site that was clearly visible in live, televised video. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Russian cosmonauts spend nearly eight hours cutting into their spacecraft," 12 Dec. 2018 Since pears have very delicate skin, light bruising isn't necessarily a bad thing. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "How to Pick the Most Delicious Pears Every Time," 19 Sep. 2018 The delicate process began; the team began to excavate and struck gold. Alice B-b, A-LIST, "No Place Like Rome," 4 July 2018 Duque's detractors warn that his victory could throw an already delicate peace process into disarray. Christine Armario And Joshua Goodman, The Christian Science Monitor, "Colombia's president-elect appeals for unity after runoff election," 18 June 2018 Within the brawn were delicate touches: Air Force crew members had set out cucumber infused water and served blueberry crepes for breakfast. Jonathan Tamari, Philly.com, "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis strives to be a reassuring voice to allies in a chaotic time," 10 June 2018 And there's this delicate dance that has to be done to get to that summit. Fox News, "Setback for Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un?," 16 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Thong’, this classic cotton thong style from Everlane holds the top spot in my delicates drawer because of its breathable material and classic fit. Tara Gonzalez, Glamour, "The World's Most Comfortable Thongs, According to Glamour Editors," 4 Apr. 2019 Once dry, stack your delicates together in your drawer to help them maintain their shape. Lauren Smith, Good Housekeeping, "How to Wash a Bra the Right Way — And Mistakes You Might Be Making," 3 Nov. 2017 Idiosyncrasies were noted: Some people wash only a few delicates at a time. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, "The Washing Machine of the Future," 15 Oct. 2018 To ensure that delicates, especially knits, don't stretch out of shape, always lay them flat to dry. Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, "5 Major Mistakes You Make Hand-Washing Clothes," 2 Apr. 2015 While sporting lacy delicates won't stop you from getting a great workout, they're definitely not designed for that kind of physical activity. Melanie Yates, Woman's Day, "The Best Underwear For Your Workout," 11 Feb. 2015 While sporting lacy delicates won't stop you from getting a great workout, they're definitely not designed for that kind of physical activity. Melanie Yates, Woman's Day, "The Best Underwear For Your Workout," 11 Feb. 2015 The handful of delicates worn before the festivities begin—silk robes, chemises, camis, and so forth—also fall into this category. Glamour, "How to Shop for Bridal Lingerie That Feels Cool, Not Corny," 29 June 2018 While sporting lacy delicates won't stop you from getting a great workout, they're definitely not designed for that kind of physical activity. Melanie Yates, Woman's Day, "The Best Underwear For Your Workout," 11 Feb. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'delicate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of delicate

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for delicate

Adjective and Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about delicate

Statistics for delicate

Last Updated

11 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for delicate

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for delicate

delicate

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of delicate

: easily broken or damaged
: easily injured, hurt, or made sick
: attractive and made up of small or fine parts

delicate

adjective
del·​i·​cate | \ ˈde-li-kət How to pronounce delicate (audio) \

Kids Definition of delicate

1 : pleasing because of fineness or mildness a delicate flavor
2 : able to sense very small differences a delicate instrument
3 : calling for skill and careful treatment a delicate operation
4 : easily damaged delicate flowers
5 : sickly sense 1 a delicate child
6 : requiring tact a delicate subject

Other Words from delicate

delicately adverb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on delicate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delicate

Spanish Central: Translation of delicate

Nglish: Translation of delicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delicate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on delicate

What made you want to look up delicate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to make a payment or contribution

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!