Definition of “subtle” - English Dictionary

“subtle” in English

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uk /ˈsʌt.əl/ us /ˈsʌt̬.əl/ approving

C2 not loud, bright, noticeable, or obvious in any way:

The room was painted a subtle shade of pink.
The play's message is perhaps too subtle to be understood by young children.

small but important:

There is a subtle difference between these two plans.

C2 achieved in a quiet way that does not attract attention to itself and is therefore good or clever:

a subtle plan/suggestion
subtle questions

More examples

adverb uk /ˈsʌt.əl.i/ us /ˈsʌt̬.əl.i/


This discovery had subtly changed/altered the way I thought about myself.

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

“subtle” in American English

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us /ˈsʌt̬·əl/

not loud, bright, noticeable, or obvious:

subtle flavors
a subtle shade of pink
The subtle nuances of English pronunciation are hard to master.

Subtle can also mean small but important:

There are subtle differences between the two.
adverb us /ˈsʌt̬·əl·i, ˈsʌt·li/

He subtly affects the lives of everyone he encounters.

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

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Now, though, it seems to be once again the case that one form of guardianship has simply been replaced by another, albeit a more subtle one.
However, this report contains a very subtle element of balance that meets demands for greater efficiency and the requirements of democracy.
We are seeing a certain increase in consensus on the idea that institutional reforms are necessary, but at the same time, this consensus tends to relate to very subtle aspects.
We need its subtle, balanced and effective provisions in the area of justice and home affairs to strengthen our fight against crime.
In short, a more active and subtle approach is required, which makes it possible to isolate an undemocratic government without isolating society.
But, a more subtle heritage is to be found in the permanently altered genetic stock of every living thing on the planet.
There are two essential aspects to trying to increase political support again and to raising the issue for discussion at a more subtle and serious level.

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