Meaning of “delicate” in the English Dictionary

"delicate" in British English

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delicateadjective

uk /ˈdel.ɪ.kət/ us /ˈdel.ə.kət/

delicate adjective (EASILY DAMAGED)

B2 needing careful treatment, especially because easily damaged:

Peaches have delicate skins which are easily bruised.
Delicate plants need to be kept in a greenhouse during the winter.
delicate china
Molly's health has always been delicate (= she gets sick easily).

C1 needing to be done carefully:

Repairing damaged nerves is a very delicate operation/process.

More examples

delicate adjective (DIFFICULT)

a delicate situation, matter, point, etc.

C1 a situation. matter, etc. that needs to be dealt with carefully in order to avoid trouble or offence:

I need to speak to you about a delicate matter.
The pay negotiations have reached a delicate point/stage.
Teachers need to strike a delicate (= carefully achieved) balance between instructing their students and letting them discover things for themselves.

delicate adjective (ACCURATE)

able to measure very small changes:

Weather-forecasters have extremely delicate equipment which helps them predict what the weather is going to be like.
delicately
adverb uk /ˈdel.ɪ.kət.li/ us /ˈdel.ə.kət.li/

I thought you handled the situation very delicately (= in a way that avoided causing offence).
The dessert was delicately flavoured with vanilla.

(Definition of “delicate” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"delicate" in American English

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delicateadjective

us /ˈdel·ɪ·kət/

delicate adjective (EASILY DAMAGED)

needing careful treatment, esp. because easily damaged:

a delicate flower
delicate jewelry

Delicate also means needing to be dealt with carefully in order to avoid causing trouble or offense:

The negotiations have reached a delicate stage.
It’s a delicate operation, and you want an experienced surgeon to do it.

delicate adjective (PLEASANT)

pleasant but not easily noticed or strong:

a delicate flavor
We chose a delicate floral pattern for our bedroom curtains.
delicately
adverb us /ˈdel·ɪ·kət·li/

Please handle the china delicately.

(Definition of “delicate” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)