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



Definition of delicate (Entry 2 of 2)

: something delicate usually used in plural washing delicates by hand

Other Words from delicate


delicately adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for delicate

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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: Adjective The hybrid power forward-center seemingly has been on the trade market for years, with the Indiana Pacers in a delicate position with Turner to become a free agent next summer. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 22 July 2022 Signifying purity, love and innocence, these delicate white flowers are often used as an accent in floral arrangements. Katarina Avendano, Good Housekeeping, 17 July 2022 Beringia was covered in swaths of wild grasses and forbs—small, nutritious plants that include delicate tundra flowers like poppies and buttercups. Diane Selkirk, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 July 2022 Dear Amy: The bride’s mom caught my buddy and his date in a delicate position in the bridal suite (and neither were in the wedding party). Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 19 June 2022 Dear Amy: The bride’s mom caught my buddy and his date in a delicate position in the bridal suite (and neither were in the wedding party). Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, 18 June 2022 Dear Amy: The bride’s mom caught my buddy and his date in a delicate position in the bridal suite (and neither were in the wedding party). Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, 18 June 2022 Dear Amy: The bride’s mom caught my buddy and his date in a delicate position in the bridal suite (and neither were in the wedding party). cleveland, 18 June 2022 Dear Amy: The bride’s mom caught my buddy and his date in a delicate position in the bridal suite (and neither were in the wedding party). Amy Dickinson, Chicago Tribune, 18 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Zakat Foundation of America considers orphans up to 18 years of age to account for the delicate and day-to-day nature of young people unfortunately left to their own devices with often little to no resources to access. Rod Berger, Forbes, 11 July 2022 Unlike a sheet mask or a traditional skincare face mask, these patches are formulated specifically for your delicate under eyes to target eye-specific issues like fine lines and crow's feet. Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping, 29 June 2022 On the global stage, China has attempted to straddle a delicate, if impossible line, of upholding its values of national sovereignty while also not condemning Russia, a geopolitical partner, for the deadly invasion of Ukraine. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Mar. 2022 They are infused with hyaluronic acid, caffeine and marshmallow extract, which help hydrate, depuff and soften the delicate under eye area. Nicole Saunders, NBC News, 9 Apr. 2021 Boyd suggests turning the item inside out, and agrees that using a mesh bag—which also comes in handy for washing delicates and lingerie—to protect from friction and snagging is best. Alexandra Ilyashov, Glamour, 7 Apr. 2020 The two steam levels, high for sturdy fabrics and low for delicates and the option to use it dry with no steam at all, helped it compete with the corded irons in our tests. Sarah Bogdan, Good Housekeeping, 15 Feb. 2019 Woolite is a home run, along with any other detergents geared toward delicates. Shelby Deering, Country Living, 7 Feb. 2020 One knocked its antlers against the boards and then tucked itself back into the flow, eyes rolling in a face delicate from the side but moose-like and broad from the front. Juliana Hanle, Scientific American, 18 Nov. 2019 See More

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.

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

Adjective and Noun

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

Learn More About delicate

Time Traveler for delicate

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near delicate




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for delicate

Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Delicate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for delicate


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

More from Merriam-Webster on delicate

Nglish: Translation of delicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delicate for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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