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



    BrE BrE//ˈsʌtl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈsʌtl//
    (subtler, subtlest) more subtle is also common
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  1. 1(often approving) not very noticeable or obvious subtle colours/flavours/smells, etc. There are subtle differences between the two versions. The fragrance is a subtle blend of jasmine and sandalwood. She's been dropping subtle hints about what she'd like as a present.
  2. 2(of a person or their behaviour) behaving in a clever way, and using indirect methods, in order to achieve something I decided to try a more subtle approach.
  3. 3organized in a clever way a subtle plan a subtle use of lighting in the play
  4. 4good at noticing and understanding things The job required a subtle mind.
  5. Word OriginMiddle English (also in the sense ‘not easily understood’): from Old French sotil, from Latin subtilis.Extra examples infinitely subtle tonal gradations making infinitely subtle distinctions For a natural glow to your skin mix a subtle shade of blusher with loose powder. Her paintings are characterized by sweeping brush strokes and subtle colours.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: subtle