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

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Other Words from delicate


delicately adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for delicate

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Conservation of these delicate creatures is still at an early stage, and focuses on keeping what’s left of their habitats intact. Petrina Darrah, Wired, 2 Oct. 2021 The Warriors must navigate a delicate situation: Putting pressure on Andrew Wiggins to get vaccinated might alienate him, yet their championship hopes — both in the short and long term — could hinge on his vaccination status. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Oct. 2021 Authorities are aware this is a delicate, controversial topic that could prompt public backlash, especially with growing awareness among women of their rights and bodily agency. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 1 Oct. 2021 And in the shoe department, secondhand Nikes are partnered with delicate kitten heels by a London designer to make a very fancy combo. Washington Post, 1 Oct. 2021 While Democrats overwhelmingly want both bills to pass and much of what is said should be considered posturing, the push is at a delicate moment. Arkansas Online, 1 Oct. 2021 Building over train lines without shutting down service is a monstrously delicate job that involves shifting loads around so that a lone column touching down alongside the tracks can do the job of five. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 30 Sep. 2021 Today, of course, these delicate aircraft — built from light wood or wire frames shaped to create lift, covered in a thin material such as paper or silk and piloted via long strings — are considered toys, not tools of military warfare. New York Times, 29 Sep. 2021 The goo tastes incredible and nuanced, like a delicate mushroom. Harper's Magazine, 28 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 When washing lingerie, sweaters, and other delicates by hand, avoid these common mishaps that could ruin your favorite fabrics. 1. Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, 2 Apr. 2015 The top machine handles a full load while the mini washer is perfect for delicates, athletic wear, or small loads that need special attention. Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, 16 Jan. 2015 The Thong’, this classic cotton thong style from Everlane holds the top spot in my delicates drawer because of its breathable material and classic fit. Tara Gonzalez, Glamour, 4 Apr. 2019

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

Adjective and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for delicate

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

6 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Delicate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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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 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


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