sub·​tle·​ty | \ ˈsə-tᵊl-tē How to pronounce subtlety (audio) \
plural subtleties

Definition of subtlety

1 : the quality or state of being subtle
2 : something subtle

Examples of subtlety in a Sentence

The pianist performed with subtlety and passion. we appreciated the subtlety with which our host indicated that it was time to leave: he volunteered to pack us a little lunch for the road
Recent Examples on the Web Sometimes subtlety is the name of the game, especially when bold, punchy flavors may not sit well in the stomach like on a long run or a hike in 100-degree temps. Hannah Singleton, Outside Online, 20 July 2022 Typically, a vicious regime or other bad actor pursues these kinds of acquisitions with more subtlety, promising that will be some distance between itself and the organization its acquiring. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 10 June 2022 Kurkov traces the development of his rustic hero with great subtlety and care, resisting the impulse to scold or editorialize. New York Times, 24 May 2022 On Tuesday his campaign unveiled an ad that doesn’t bother with subtlety. Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2022 The comedy of this unusual pairing may not be treated with subtlety, but their burgeoning romance is. Nina Metz,, 7 Apr. 2022 Winner of 10 Tony Awards, including best musical, the show doesn’t traffic in subtlety or nuance. Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2022 The panel’s high brightness joins with some excellent colour processing and management to produce a range and subtlety of colour tones beyond the scope of most monitors. John Archer, Forbes, 28 June 2022 The nonlinear storytelling, just the subtlety, the feeling of that suburban oppression, the mundanity of these people’s lives kind of flew off the page. Emily Longeretta, Variety, 31 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of subtlety

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subtlety

Middle English sotilte, subtilte, from Anglo-French sotilté, from Latin subtilitat-, subtilitas, from subtilis

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

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Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Subtlety.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on subtlety

Nglish: Translation of subtlety for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of subtlety for Arabic Speakers


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