Definition of delicate adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈdelɪkət//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈdelɪkət//
    Poor health, Being ill
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  1. 1  easily damaged or broken synonym fragile delicate china teacups The eye is one of the most delicate organs of the body. the delicate ecological balance of the rainforest Babies have very delicate skin. a cool wash cycle for delicate fabrics
  2. 2  (of a person) not strong and easily becoming ill/sick a delicate child/constitution His health had always been delicate. See related entries: Poor health, Being ill
  3. 3  small and having a beautiful shape or appearance his delicate hands
  4. 4  made or formed in a very careful and detailed way the delicate mechanisms of a clock
  5. 5  showing or needing skilful, careful or sensitive treatment I admired your delicate handling of the situation. a delicate problem The delicate surgical operation took five hours.
  6. 6  (of colours, flavours and smells) light and pleasant; not strong synonym subtle a delicate fragrance/flavour a river scene painted in delicate watercolours
  7. Word Originlate Middle English (in the sense ‘delightful, charming’): from French délicat or Latin delicatus, of unknown origin. Senses also expressed in Middle English (now obsolete) include ‘voluptuous’, ‘self-indulgent’, ‘fastidious’, and ‘effeminate’.Extra examples Her bones felt as delicate as a bird’s. The glasses looked very delicate. This is a somewhat delicate subject. a politically delicate situation a rather delicate child He warned that the talks were at a very delicate stage. I wasn’t sure how to approach the delicate matter of pay. She has a delicate constitution and has to be careful with what she eats. The eye is one of the most delicate organs of the body This has done nothing except to inflame an already delicate situation. a cool wash for delicate fabrics
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: delicate