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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
Where her paintings are certain and suffocating, her works on paper here, installed in corners or at far ends of her panoramas, are delicate and mysterious, softly and enrapturingly beautiful. Globe Staff,, 13 Sep. 2023 The delicate transparent pants are ideal for the warmer day time, and a velvety zip-up hoodie and black parka are for those who run cold at night. The Editors, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2023 The princess found a touching way to keep her children close to her heart: a delicate gold necklace engraved with the initials of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis. Stephanie Bridger-Linning, Glamour, 12 Sep. 2023 Vines of flowers twine over shoulders and across bodices with a naturalistic grace; pale peach ostrich feathers are manipulated into delicate wisps cinched with small grosgrain bows. Rachel Tashjian, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2023 Unlike other compact models that have more features, this dryer offers modest controls with only air dry, normal, and timed drying options; this isn’t the dryer for especially delicate fabrics or uncommon materials. Kristina McGuirk, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 Sep. 2023 Filled with what would become hallmarks of both Ghibli and Miyazaki's output—heroic young women, the joy of flight, and the delicate state of the natural world—Nausicaä set the standard for everything that followed. Matt Kamen, WIRED, 7 Sep. 2023 That influence shows the delicate balance government must navigate when companies innovate faster than their competitors - or the government itself. Christian Davenport and Joseph Menn, Anchorage Daily News, 7 Sep. 2023 While statistics is an essential tool for understanding the world, employing it responsibly and avoiding its pitfalls requires a delicate dance. Jack Murtagh, Scientific American, 7 Sep. 2023
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 23 Sep. 2023.

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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