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Adjective subtle has 3 senses


subtlea. [OE. sotil, subtil, OF. soutil, later subtil, F. subtil, L. subtilis; probably, originally, woven fine, and fr. sub under + tela a web, fr. texere to weave. See Text, and cf. Subtile.].
  •  Sly in design; artful; cunning; insinuating; subtile; -- applied to persons; as, a subtle foe.  Shak.  [1913 Webster]
  •  Cunningly devised; crafty; treacherous; as, a subtle stratagem.  [1913 Webster]
  •  Characterized by refinement and niceness in drawing distinctions; nicely discriminating; -- said of persons; as, a subtle logician; refined; tenuous; sinuous; insinuating; hence, penetrative or pervasive; -- said of the mind; its faculties, or its operations; as, a subtle intellect; a subtle imagination; a subtle process of thought; also, difficult of apprehension; elusive.  [1913 Webster]
    "Things remote from use, obscure and subtle."  [1913 Webster]
  •  Smooth and deceptive.  [1913 Webster]
    "Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground [bowling ground]."  [1913 Webster]
Syn. -- Artful; crafty; cunning; shrewd; sly; wily.


subtle, adj. (subtler, subtlest)
1 evasive or mysterious; hard to grasp (subtle charm; a subtle distinction).
2 (of scent, colour, etc.) faint, delicate, elusive (subtle perfume).
3 a capable of making fine distinctions; perceptive; acute (subtle intellect; subtle senses). b ingenious; elaborate; clever (a subtle device).
4 archaic crafty, cunning.

subtleness n. subtly adv.
ME f. OF sotil f. L subtilis



Byzantine, Machiavellian, Machiavellic, abstruse, accurate, acute, adulterated, air-built, airy, analytic, analytical, appreciative, arcane, arch, artful, astute, attentive, attenuate, attenuated, balled up, boyish, cagey, calculating, canny, casuistic, chimerical, civilized, clever, close, cloud-built, complex, complicated, concealed, confounded, confused, conscientious, constant, convoluted, correct, crabbed, crafty, creamy, critical, cultivated, cultured, cunning, cut, cute, daedal, dainty, deceitful, deceptive, deep, deep-laid, delicate, demanding, designing, detailed, devious, dexterous, diaphanous, differential, dilute, diluted, diplomatic, direct, discriminate, discriminating, discriminative, distinctive, distinguishing, dreamlike, eggshell, elaborate, elegant, elusive, embrangled, entangled, ethereal, even, exact, exacting, exigent, express, exquisite, faint, faithful, fanciful, fastidious, fatuitous, fatuous, feline, fine, fine-drawn, finespun, finical, finicking, finicky, flat, flimsy, fouled up, foxy, frail, fussy, gaseous, gauzy, girlish, gloss, gossamer, gossamery, graceful, gracile, gracious, guileful, hairline, hairsplitting, hidden, illusory, imaginary, implicated, inerrable, inerrant, infallible, ingenious, insidious, insubstantial, intricate, inventive, involuted, involved, iridescent, knotted, knowing, labyrinthian, labyrinthine, lacy, light, loused up, many-faceted, mathematical, matted, mazy, meandering, mellow, messed up, meticulous, micrometrically precise, microscopic, minute, misty, mixed up, mother-of-pearl, mucked up, multifarious, nacreous, narrow, nebulous, nice, obscure, opalescent, pale, papery, particular, pastel, patinaed, pawky, pearly, perplexed, phantomlike, pinpoint, polished, politic, precise, precisianistic, precisionistic, profound, punctilious, punctual, quiet, ramified, rare, rarefied, ratiocinative, ready, recondite, refined, religious, religiously exact, remote, resourceful, rigid, rigorous, roundabout, sad, scheming, scientific, scientifically exact, screwed up, scrupulous, scrutinizing, selective, semigloss, sensitive, serpentine, severe, shadowy, sharp, shifty, shrewd, simple, skillful, slender, slenderish, slick, slight, slight-made, slim, slimmish, slimy, slinky, slippery, sly, small, smarmy, smart, smooth, snaky, snarled, sneaky, sober, soft, soft-colored, soft-hued, softened, somber, sophistical, sophisticated, spirituous, square, stealthy, strategic, strict, subdued, subtile, supple, svelte, sweet, sylphlike, tactful, tactical, tangled, tangly, tender, tenuous, thin, thin-bodied, thin-set, thin-spun, thinned, thinned-out, thinnish, threadlike, trickish, tricksy, tricky, twisted, uncompact, uncompressed, underhanded, undeviating, unerring, unreal, unsubstantial, vague, vaporous, veiled, vulpine, wary, wasp-waisted, watered, watered-down, watery, weak, willowy, wily, windy, wiredrawn, wispy




N smallness, littleness, tenuity, paucity, fewness, meanness, insignificance (unimportance), mediocrity, moderation, small quantity, modicum, trace, hint, minimum, vanishing point, material point, atom, particle, molecule, corpuscle, point, speck, dot, mote, jot, iota, ace, minutiae, details, look, thought, idea, soupcon, dab, dight, whit, tittle, shade, shadow, spark, scintilla, gleam, touch, cast, grain, scruple, granule, globule, minim, sup, sip, sop, spice, drop, droplet, sprinkling, dash, morceau, screed, smack, tinge, tincture, inch, patch, scantling, tatter, cantlet, flitter, gobbet, mite, bit, morsel, crumb, seed, fritter, shive, snip, snippet, snick, snack, snatch, slip, scrag, chip, chipping, shiver, sliver, driblet, clipping, paring, shaving, hair, nutshell, thimbleful, spoonful, handful, capful, mouthful, fragment, fraction, drop in the ocean, animalcule, trifle, mere nothing, next to nothing, hardly anything, just enough to swear by, the shadow of a shade, finiteness, finite quantity, small, little, diminutive, minute, fine, inconsiderable, paltry, faint, slender, light, slight, scanty, scant, limited, meager, sparing, few, low, so-so, middling, tolerable, no great shakes, below par, under par, below the mark, at a low ebb, halfway, moderate, modest, tender, subtle, inappreciable, evanescent, infinitesimal, homeopathic, very small, atomic, corpuscular, microscopic, molecular, subatomic, mere, simple, sheer, stark, bare, near run, dull, petty, shallow, stolid, ungifted, unintelligent, to a small extent, on a small scale, a little bit, a wee bit, slightly, imperceptibly, miserably, wretchedly, insufficiently, imperfectly, faintly, passably, pretty well, well enough, partially, in part, in a certain degree, to a certain degree, to a certain extent, comparatively, some, rather in some degree, in some measure, something, somewhat, simply, only, purely, merely, at least, at the least, at most, at the most, ever so little, as little as may be, tant soit peu, in ever so small a degree, thus far, pro tanto, within bounds, in a manner, after a fashion, so to speak, almost, nearly, well-nigh, short of, not quite, all but, near upon, close upon, peu s'en faut, near the mark, within an ace of, within an inch of, on the brink of, scarcely, hardly, barely, only just, no more than, about, thereabouts, somewhere about, nearly, say, be the same, be little more or less, no ways, no way, no wise, not at all, not in the least, not a bit, not a bit of it, not a whit, not a jot, not a shadow, in no wise, in no respect, by no means, by no manner of means, on no account, at no hand, dare pondus idonea fumo, magno conatu magnas nugas, small sands the mountain, moments make the year.


N cunning, craft, cunningness, craftiness, subtlety, artificiality, maneuvering, temporization, circumvention, chicane, chicanery, sharp practice, knavery, jugglery, concealment, guile, doubling, duplicity, foul play, diplomacy, politics, Machiavelism, jobbery, backstairs influence, art, artifice, device, machination, plot, maneuver, stratagem, dodge, sidestep, artful dodge, wile, trick, trickery, ruse, ruse de guerre, finesse, side blow, thin end of the wedge, shift, go by, subterfuge, evasion, white lie, juggle, tour de force, tricks of the trade, tricks upon travelers, espieglerie, net, trap, Ulysses, Machiavel, sly boots, fox, reynard, Scotchman, Jew, Yankee, intriguer, intrigant, floater, Indian giver, keener, repeater, cunning, crafty, artful, skillful, subtle, feline, vulpine, cunning as a fox, cunning as a serpent, deep, deep laid, profound, designing, contriving, intriguing, strategic, diplomatic, politic, Machiavelian, timeserving, artificial, tricky, tricksy, wily, sly, slim, insidious, stealthy, underhand, subdolous, deceitful, slippery as an eel, evasive, crooked, arch, pawky, shrewd, acute, sharp, sharp as a tack, sharp as a needle, canny, astute, leery, knowing, up to snuff, too clever by half, not to be caught with chaff, tactful, diplomatic, politic, polite, cunningly, slyly, slily, on the sly, by a side wind, diamond cut diamond, a' bis ou a blanc, fin contre fin, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

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