del·​i·​cate | \ˈde-li-kət \

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



Definition of delicate (Entry 2 of 2)

: something delicate washing delicates by hand

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Other Words from delicate


delicately adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for delicate

Synonyms: Adjective

airy, dainty, exquisite, nuanced, refined, subtle

Antonyms: Adjective

robust, strong, sturdy

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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


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

At stake is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and Oregon’s reputation for producing a delicate pinot noir in its cool, rainy climate, according to state Rep. David Gomberg and winemaker Jim Bernau, who have been sharply critical of Copper Cane. Andrew Selsky, The Seattle Times, "Oregon seeing red in its dispute with California winery," 28 Nov. 2018 There’s a delicate balance for evolving the channel. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "YouTuber who eats disgusting food is everything good about the internet," 20 Nov. 2018 Her jewelry is simple: a delicate cross celebrating her cultural background and her family’s dedication to church. Fawnia Soo Hoo, Glamour, "The Costumes in Widows Mirror Each Woman’s Journey," 15 Nov. 2018 So the entry courtyard, and the foyer beyond, act as padding for the delicate treasures inside. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "A museum grows in Houston," 1 Nov. 2018 Meghan first wore the delicate bracelet on the evening before the royal wedding, and again chose it to wear with her pale pink ensemble at Charles’ 70th birthday celebrations. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Has Been Wearing Her Sentimental Wedding Gift From Father-In-Law Prince Charles," 23 Oct. 2018 Set the machine on the delicate cycle and give the pillows a second rinse. Lauren Smith, Good Housekeeping, "How to Clean Pillows the Right Way," 17 Oct. 2018 The gorgeous blush gown is nipped in at the waist and features delicate draping. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "See the Official Portraits from Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's Royal Wedding," 13 Oct. 2018 For a larger party, simple gifts such as delicate ornaments are a wonderful way to leave everyone with a sentimental token to remember the evening. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "A Celebrity Event Planner’s Secrets for the Best Holiday Party Ever," 10 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 The delicates collection, which ranges in price from $13 to $36, comes in sizes XS to XL for bottoms and 32A to 36D for bras. Rachel Torgerson, Cosmopolitan, "J. Crew Has Adorable Lingerie Now, FYI," 28 Feb. 2018 However, be aware that plastic restricts airflow, making it a bad choice for delicates, vintage pieces, or heirlooms. Jolie Kerr, Esquire, "This Is the Right Way to Store Your Clothes," 14 Oct. 2016 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, Redbook, "The Best Underwear For Your Workout," 12 Feb. 2015 Made to fit dames of all sizes, Trashy Diva also offers lingerie, corsets and other delicates at its sister shop behind Jackson Square. Grace Wilson,, "The locals' guide to French Quarter shopping for jewelry, gifts, clothing, antiques," 1 Aug. 2017 Delicate beading covers the sleeves and the bodice, while scalloped beading dramatically drapes down over the skirt. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "This Indonesian Bride's Dress Is Even More Stunning Than Cinderella's," 6 Apr. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of delicate


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for delicate


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


see delicate entry 1

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Statistics for delicate

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for delicate

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

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More Definitions for delicate



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


del·​i·​cate | \ˈde-li-kət \

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

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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).


having a pattern of small flowers

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