in·​tri·​cate ˈin-tri-kət How to pronounce intricate (audio)
: having many complexly interrelating parts or elements : complicated
intricate machinery
an intricate plot
: difficult to resolve or analyze
intricately adverb
intricateness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for intricate

complex, complicated, intricate, involved, knotty mean having confusingly interrelated parts.

complex suggests the unavoidable result of a necessary combining and does not imply a fault or failure.

a complex recipe

complicated applies to what offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining.

complicated legal procedures

intricate suggests such interlacing of parts as to make it nearly impossible to follow or grasp them separately.

an intricate web of deceit

involved implies extreme complication and often disorder.

a rambling, involved explanation

knotty suggests complication and entanglement that make solution or understanding improbable.

knotty ethical questions

Examples of intricate in a Sentence

Filigree is an ancient technique that creates an intricate, lace-like pattern through the combination of wire swirls and shapes. Jeanne Rhodes-Moen, Step by Step Wire Jewelry, Fall 2007
Tsunami generation involves intricate interactions among earthquakes, landslides, and "sympathetic" vibrations between the quake and the ocean above it. Robert Koenig, Science, 17 Aug. 2001
However, other random processes can be quite intricate; for example, the fluctuating prices of stocks are difficult to explain because there are so many variables and combinations of variables that are influencing the prices. Lloyd Jaisingh, Statistics for the Utterly Confused, 2000
The movie has an intricate plot. an intricate machine that requires some training to use it properly
Recent Examples on the Web The Fishtown-neighborhood restaurant features two kinds of intricate dumplings that have completely enraptured visitors: kanom jeeb nok, filled with cod and radish and shaped like birds; and shaw muang, made of ground chicken and Thai chili, wrapped in a flower. Melinda Sheckells, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Apr. 2024 The Quasar stage looks like a cross between an ancient pyramid and a spaceship, featuring a distinct angular design and intricate lights lined up across the entire stage. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 13 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for intricate 

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

Word History


Middle English, from Latin intricatus, past participle of intricare to entangle, from in- + tricae trifles, complications

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of intricate was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near intricate

Cite this Entry

“Intricate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


in·​tri·​cate ˈin-tri-kət How to pronounce intricate (audio)
: having many complexly interrelating parts, elements, or considerations : complicated
an intricate design
difficult to solve the intricate puzzle
intricately adverb
intricateness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on intricate

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