Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.


 (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 ?
But some seek only the most subtile forms of government.
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.
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.
How vast and profound is the influence of the subtile powers of Heaven and of Earth
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.
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.
It was as though in some subtile way the girl had breathed a message of kindred savagery to their savage hearts.
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.
Related to Emotion also and one of the most necessary elements in the higher forms of literature is Imagination, the faculty of making what is absent or unreal seem present and real, and revealing the hidden or more subtile forces of life.
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.
Detering berichtet nicht nur uber die Beitrage im Theatrum Europaeum, sondern liefert auch subtile und scharfsinnige Interpretationen der Titelkupfer, etwa zum Frontispiz Merians im ersten Band.
Cette confrontation directe entre les deux soeurs a donne au spectacle une force inouie et ce grace a l'interpretation maitrisee, au jeu subtile (mais par moments exagere) des deux actrices.