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 (sŭt′l, sŭb′təl)

[Middle English, from Old French subtil, from Latin subtīlis, fine, delicate; see subtle.]

sub′tile·ly adv.
sub·til′i·ty (səb-tĭl′ĭ-tē), sub′tile·ness (sŭt′l-nĭs, sŭb′təl-), sub′til·ty (sŭt′l-tē, sŭb′təl-) n.


a rare spelling of subtle
ˈsubtilely adv
subtility, ˈsubtileness n
ˈsubtilty n


(ˈsʌt l)

adj. -tler, -tlest.
1. thin, tenuous, or rarefied, as a fluid or an odor.
2. fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand: subtle irony.
3. delicate or faint and mysterious: a subtle smile.
4. characterized by or requiring mental acuteness, penetration, or discernment.
5. cunning, wily, or crafty.
6. insidious in operation: a subtle poison.
7. skillful, clever, or ingenious.
[1250–1300; Middle English sotil < Old French < Latin subtīlis subtile]
sub′tle•ness, n.
sub′tly, adv.


, subtle
a. sutil, delicado-a; inadvertido-a, desapercibido-a.
References in classic literature ?
Hepzibah, at all events, was indebted to its subtile operation both in body and spirit; so much the more, as it inspired her with energy to get some breakfast, at which, still the better to keep up her courage, she allowed herself an extra spoonful in her infusion of black tea.
And Pearl, overhearing the ejaculation, or aware through some more subtile channel, of those throbs of anguish, would turn her vivid and beautiful little face upon her mother, smile with sprite-like intelligence, and resume her play.
Accessory, perhaps, to the impulse dictating the thing he was now about to do, were certain prudential motives, whose object might have been to revive the spirits of his crew by a stroke of his subtile skill, in a matter so wondrous as that of the inverted compasses.
It was as though in some subtile way the girl had breathed a message of kindred savagery to their savage hearts.
Thou liest, subtile one," said D'Artagnan to himself.
It looks, and is, as evanescent as a dream; and yet, in its rustic network of boughs, it has somehow enclosed a hint of spiritual beauty, and has become a true emblem of the subtile and ethereal mind that planned it.
But some seek only the most subtile forms of government.
He did not speak, but presently that strange, subtile sixth sense which warns us that we are not alone, though our eyes see not nor our ears hear, caused her to turn.
It was an alchemy of soul occultly subtile and profoundly deep--a mysterious emanation of the spirit, seductive, sweetly humble, and terribly imperious.
If one of them rendered lines containing the most subtile distinctions between right and wrong, the gallery was immediately aware if the actor meant wickedness, and denounced him accordingly.
But "you must with a crafty wile and subtile train, study and endeavour yourself, as much as in you lieth, to handle the matter wittily and handsomely for the purpose.
This appears an astonishing instance of the permanence of some matter, which nevertheless in its nature must be most subtile and volatile.