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as in: a subtle poison Define
working in an indirect or hidden way
  • She is working subtly against us.
  • It is a subtle poison. In small doses, it might never be detected, but eventually your heart will fail.

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  • I peek over Lauren’s shoulder and copy down two of her answers—I’m good at being subtle about it—
    Lauren Oliver  --  Before I Fall
  • And speaking of not-so-subtle, the heap of dollar bills that just fell out of my locker, along with a note, were a good indicator that I may not be very welcome.
    Colleen Hoover  --  Hopeless
  • "I’d love to look around," Hana hints not-so-subtly.
    Lauren Oliver  --  Delirium
  • "You never told me what you thought of the picture." Nice try, Clay, but that’s not why you’re here.
    "...What do you want? Because you don’t do subtle well."
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • It looked as though the Old South was still alive and well, a little more subtle, without the sheets and night riders, but a force that still tolerated little deviation from the norm.
    Pat Conroy  --  The Water is Wide
  • What if this were all a subtle trap?
    Corrie Ten Boom  --  The Hiding Place
  • It was one thing to screw up a huge weapon. It was another thing to screw it up so subtly that no one noticed until it was too late.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Blood of Olympus
  • There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships.
    Arthur Miller  --  The Crucible

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  • But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon.
    C.S. Lewis  --  The Screwtape Letters
  • Some were shamelessly open, some shamelessly subtle.
    John Howard Griffin  --  Black Like Me
  • A poison—so subtle, so insidious . . . so irreversible. It won’t even kill you unless you stop taking it.
    Frank Herbert  --  Dune
  • He had felt a subtle, dark, and murmurous presence penetrate his being...
    James Joyce  --  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • There were poisons so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken of them.
    Oscar Wilde  --  The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • she hated Miriam for having in this subtle way undermined his joy.
    D.H. Lawrence  --  Sons and Lovers
  • But behind that display of sleeping force were other and much subtler weapons.
    Arthur C. Clarke  --  Childhood’s End
  • and round the posts he poured the chains in a sweeping net
    with streams of others flowing down from the roofbeam,
    gossamer-fine as spider webs no man could see,
    not even a blissful god—
    the Smith had forged a masterwork of guile.
    Once he’d spun that cunning trap around his bed
    and uncontrollable laughter burst from the happy gods
    when they saw the god of fire’s subtle, cunning work.
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • They’re pretty subtle.
    Lauren Oliver  --  Delirium
  • That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • It wasn’t that difficult dodging Drew’s not-so-subtle come-ons when I ran into him by myself, but I certainly didn’t want to take the chance that he’d proposition me in front of his girlfriend.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • ...Plead now
    with a subtle, winning word and stand well back,
    He launched in at once, endearing, sly and suave:
    "Here I am at your mercy, princess—
    are you a goddess or a mortal? ...
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • quick to exploit the gifts Athena gave her—
    a skilled hand for elegant work, a fine mind
    and subtle wiles too—we’ve never heard the like,
    Not one could equal Penelope for intrigue
    but in this case she intrigued beyond all…
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • "You don’t have to cover for the fact that you wanted to see me, Leigh, but subtlety is always appreciated."
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • His name struck fear in the souls of all his employees and his hand ruled the passages of his carpeted bailiwick with the subtlety of a sword.
    Pat Conroy  --  The Water is Wide
  • But as the days passed I began to discover a subtle danger.
    Corrie Ten Boom  --  The Hiding Place
  • Or Katharine would die, and by subtle manoeuvrings Winston and Julia would succeed in getting married.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if the Beje was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.
    Corrie Ten Boom  --  The Hiding Place
  • She pulls her hand away from Drew and subtly presses her leg against mine, but I don’t want any part of it.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • I wonder if she’s talking about me and she thinks she’s being subtle.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • Hazel’s magic did its work. Cold air rippled across Jason’s face as the Mist subtly altered his appearance, showing the suitors what they expected to see. Cold air rippled across Jason’s face as the Mist subtly altered his appearance, showing the suitors what they expected to see.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Blood of Olympus
  • Let me tell you of all the witch’s subtle craft ….
    She’ll mix you a potion, lace the brew with drugs
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • I fold my arms across my chest after Rob flicks his eyes not so subtly down to my boobs.
    Lauren Oliver  --  Before I Fall
  • This drama that I have played out with you during seven years will be played out over and over again generation after generation, always in subtler forms.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • "My friend,
    subtle Odysseus broke in, "I’ve no desire, myself,
    to linger here.
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • The man was his mother’s noble father, one who excelled
    the world at thievery, that and subtle, shifty oaths.
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • you actually entertained my husband as you say.
    Come, tell me what sort of clothing he wore,
    what cut of man was he?
    What of the men who followed in his train?"
    "Ah good woman,"
    Odysseus, the great master of subtlety, returned,
    "how hard it is to speak, after so much time
    apart ….
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • This little knot of subtle schemers will control the convention, and, through it, dictate to the party.
    Hawthorne, Nathaniel  --  House Of Seven Gables
  • a subtle poison
  • Razumov, as has been seen, was aware of more subtle ways in which an individual may be undone by the proceedings of a despotic Government.
    Conrad, Joseph  --  Under Western Eyes
  • It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
    Isaac Asimov
  • It’s fourth period now and I’ve heard the words "slut" and "whore" whispered not so subtly by almost every girl I’ve passed in the hallways.
    Colleen Hoover  --  Hopeless
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as in: a subtle shade of blue Define
understated so as not to draw attention to itself
  • a subtle, but unmistakable warning
  • She has a good eye for subtle differences in color.

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  • a subtle elegance
  • It’s a simple sleeveless shift dress with a very subtle scoop neck and a slight A-line skirt that hits just barely above my knee.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • It was easy enough to find the action—two hundred–odd kids gathered around a raging bonfire to eat wasn’t exactly subtle.
    Alexandra Bracken  --  The Darkest Minds
  • He still didn’t say anything, but he smiled and exhaled a subtle laugh, holding out a closed fist.
    John Corey Whaley  --  Nogin
  • A subtle yet familiar fragrance filled my head.
    Dave Pelzer  --  The Lost Boy
  • It must needs be of subtle, tender, and delicate temperance.
    William Shakespeare  --  The Tempest
  • Charlie, in an obvious maneuver that he meant to be subtle, shrugged in between us and put his arm around my shoulders.
    Stephenie Meyer  --  Eclipse
  • "Ouch," I said, trying to be subtle in taking a glance at my watch:  five minutes had passed.
    Sarah Dessen  --  Dreamland

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  • It is not bad—at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman  --  The Yellow Wallpaper
  • The river slid by in a body, utterly silent and swift, intertwining among itself like some subtle, complex creature.
    D.H. Lawrence  --  Sons and Lovers
  • There remain, however, two ways of producing the play. One, with a constant subtle adjustment of lights and sound effects; and one through a still bolder acknowledgment of artifice and make-believe: the rooster’s crow, the train and factory whistles and school bells frankly man-made and in the spirit of "play."
    Thornton Wilder  --  Our Town
  • "I never was very good at being subtle," he said, "so I will come right out and say it: ..."
    Darren Shan  --  A Vampire’s Assistant
  • And we ourselves become somehow not ourselves, but we turn subtler, weirder, less attached to our bodies, less attached to our names.
    David Almond  --  Clay
  • I pulled into an open spot and looked up at a tastefully subtle sign that read JASON SCOTT, ATTORNEY AT LAW.
    Stephenie Meyer  --  Breaking Dawn
  • I stare them down for a few more seconds, debating whether to unleash the smile all at once or just let it subtly drift across my face, when I’m interrupted by a voice behind me.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
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as in: a subtle difference or thinker Define
not obvious, but understandable by someone with adequate sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps depending upon fine distinctions) or: capable of understanding things that require sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps understanding fine distinctions)
  • She used subtle reasoning to expose the absurdity of his argument.
  • She guessed which spices were used by their subtle aromas.

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  • his whole attitude had undergone a subtle change
  • Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports.
    Sun, Tzu  --  The Art of War
  • And though his voice is the same, there’s something subtly different about him.
    Sabaa Tahir  --  An Ember in the Ashes
  • Until my father explained it to me later, I did not understand the subtlety of Tom’s predicament: he would not have dared strike a white woman under any circumstances and expect to live long, so he took the first opportunity to run— a sure sign of guilt.
    Harper Lee  --  To Kill a Mockingbird
  • It’s subtle, and I doubt most people would notice, because the change is mostly in the eyes, but I can see the difference.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • ...what has remained is an indefinable nonspeech, flavored subtly with a nonaccent, and decipherable to no one, black or white, on the American continent.
    Pat Conroy  --  The Water is Wide
  • There was a subtle limp to her walk, maybe, but if I hadn’t known what had happened, I would have just assumed she was coming in from a long afternoon of working in the Garden.
    Alexandra Bracken  --  The Darkest Minds
  • It was always new, familiar though the body and its responses became, and as physical as the act was, requiring such roughness, control and subtlety.
    V.S. Naipaul  --  A Bend in the River

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  • I’m hardly adept at subtle conversation.
    Someone my age might feel shy, what’s more,
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • Somehow, they carried the authority of middle pretties without the firm jaw, the subtly lined eyes, or the elegant clothing.
    Scott Westerfeld  --  Uglies
  • You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking,
    J.K. Rowling  --  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • A heart too deep for common minds to plumb, A spirit subtle, charming?
    Edmond Rostand  --  Cyrano de Bergerac
  • The difference between Renesmee an hour ago and Renesmee now was subtler.
    Stephenie Meyer  --  Breaking Dawn
  • Many a subtle reason forth they laid;
    Geoffrey Chaucer  --  The Canterbury Tales
  • The experience had subtler points that did not escape Rutledge.
    John Howard Griffin  --  Black Like Me
  • a subtle gloom
    Jack London  --  To Build a Fire
  • There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a Mortal can imply that he is of the same party is those to whom he is speaking.
    C.S. Lewis  --  The Screwtape Letters
  • The clues were pretty subtle.
    Malcolm Gladwell  --  Blink
  • Absentmindedly, I twisted my right hand to the side, and watched the sunlight glitter subtly off the scar James had left there.
    Stephenie Meyer  --  Eclipse
  • But those changes are subtle and hard to measure.
    Louis Sachar  --  Holes
  • One of those exams where the wrong, subtle interpretation of the facts made the difference between pass and fail.
    Robert Cormier  --  The Chocolate War
  • He noticed the subtle differences as she changed before his eyes.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Guardian
  • I can pick up on subtle clues.
    Sherman Alexie  --  The Absolutlely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • For me, the facts are clear…" I’d only known Rogerson for three months, but I could recognize instantly the subtle signs of him growing irritated:
    Sarah Dessen  --  Dreamland
  • These dreams came again later on, developed to a more subtle psychological stage.
    D.H. Lawrence  --  Sons and Lovers
  • The Supervisor did not use those actual words, of course, and the thoughts he really expressed were far more subtle.
    Arthur C. Clarke  --  Childhood’s End
  • That he has a sense of humor that’s often so subtle it takes you hours to catch up.
    Nora Roberts  --  Summer Pleasures
  • I’d go to Monet’s and write a poem or two. My first few attempts were a bit sad. Not much depth or subtlety. Pretty straightforward.
    Jay Asher  --  Thirteen Reasons Why
  • You do yet taste
    Some subtleties o’ the isle, that will not let you
    Believe things certain.
    William Shakespeare  --  The Tempest
  • His father, though, was not in the mood to notice subtleties like that;
    Franz Kafka  --  Metamorphosis
  • Sometimes it appeared as though they played some vast and complicated game with me and the rest of the school folk, a game whose goal was laughter and whose rules and subtleties I could never grasp.
    Ralph Ellison  --  Invisible Man
  • ...hawk features, blue-ink eyes that suggested he was a native of Arrakis, but subtleties of movement and stance told her he was not.
    Frank Herbert  --  Dune
  • "Mark their subtleties, Sire," said Poggin to the King.
    C.S. Lewis  --  The Last Battle
  • the loveliness and subtleties of certain colours
    Oscar Wilde  --  The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that subtleties of feeling began to disappear until...
    John Steinbeck  --  Travels with Charley
  • There was something subtly wrong with Syme.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • Before I can worry too much for his safety, her face subtly changes.
    Katja Millay  --  The Sea of Tranquility
  • I have never written fast or easily and this was no exception, for even then I was compelled to search, however inadequately, for the right word and suffered over the rhythms and subtleties of our gorgeous but unbenevolent, unyielding tongue; nonetheless, I was seized by a strange, dauntless self-confidence and I scribbled away joyously while the characters I had begun to create seemed to acquire a life of their own and the muggy atmosphere of the Tidewater summer took on both an…
    William Styron  --  Sophie’s Choice
  • Since the only points I noticed on a horse were nose, tail, and ears, the subtleties were lost on me.
    Diana Gabaldon  --  Outlander
  • It’s a shade too sincere, but the subtleties of irony are often wasted in 13.
    Suzanne Collins  --  Mockingjay
  • Another night of Stew Beef making dynamic subtleties with his drum and living, sculptural, grotesques in the dance.
    Zora Neale Hurston  --  Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • After our recent clash with The Cat, I thought you might have become a man of heroic action and no longer cared for the subtleties of the intellect.
    Frank Beddor  --  The Looking Glass Wars
  • Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often forced, none exceed that fine manoeuvre with the lance called pitchpoling.
    Herman Melville  --  Moby Dick
  • His body was as insensitive to pain as was his mind to subtleties.
    John Steinbeck  --  East of Eden
  • They are only makeshift techniques, though, and are incapable of expressing the language’s true subtleties as well as our Liduen Kvaedhi, the Poetic Script.
    Christopher Paolini  --  Eldest
  • Here is another example of the subtleties of persuasion.
    Malcolm Gladwell  --  The Tipping Point
  • The instant David discovered that he battled with a disputant who imbibed his faith from the lights of nature, eschewing all subtleties of doctrine, he willingly abandoned a controversy from which he believed neither profit nor credit was to be derived.
    James Fenimore Cooper  --  The Last of the Mohicans
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  • Her blond hair was streaked with red highlights —very subtle for a stealth mission.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Throne of Fire
  • She could sense their subtle gazes on her, examining her, evaluating.
    Cassandra Clare  --  City of Ashes

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  • Her red-leather jacket had a subtle design to it—twisted branches of an apple tree populated with skeletal birds.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Mark of Athena
  • What set him apart were his more subtle specifications.
    Michael Lewis  --  The Blind Side
  • She reaches for her suitcase, and by a subtle change in the color of the light, we go with her thoughts into another time.
    William Gibson  --  The Miracle Worker
  • The connective tissue under the skin had been destroyed by the virus, causing a subtle distortion of the face.
    Richard Preston  --  The Hot Zone
  • Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
    Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner  --  Freakonomics
  • But as he continued to stare, subtle differences slowly came into focus.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Best of Me
  • Subtle ones, they admit, but four distinct seasons nonetheless.
    John Grogan  --  Marley & Me
  • He revealed it subtly without me realizing it.
    Jaycee Lee Dugard  --  A Stolen Life

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  • But his prose revealed the depth and subtlety of his thinking about how landscape could be modified to produce an effect in the mind.
    Erik Larson  --  The Devil in the White City
  • For now, the tension was subtle, a vibration, like the inaudible cry of overstressed steel.
    Erik Larson  --  The Devil in the White City
  • His sister fancied herself subtle, but he had grown up with her.
    George R.R. Martin  --  A Clash of Kings
  • Littlefinger is subtle and ambitious.
    George R.R. Martin  --  A Storm of Swords
  • This conflict showed itself in his attitude towards Marston: half hard and indifferent, half subtly deferential.
    Doris Lessing  --  The Grass is Singing
  • Then, not so subtly, he told me to mention his art to Prince Maxon.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Selection
  • European women often boss their men too, but with a beguiling subtlety unknown to most American females.
    William Styron  --  Sophie’s Choice
  • I shook my head subtly but firmly at her, transmitting a silent message—stop.
    Becca Fitzpatrick  --  Hush, Hush
  • The dressers had been rearranged, though the difference was subtle and some people disagreed that they’d been moved at all.
    James Dashner  --  The Scorch Trials
  • Every one of them is small, subtle, but they are mistakes nonetheless.
    Neal Shusterman  --  Unwind
  • She stressed that last word, then subtly winked again.
    James Dashner  --  The Death Cure
  • Far less subtly than I’m sure she intended, she made wide eyes at Lucy and Anne, begging them to leave with her.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Elite
  • His face went pale, as if he seriously thought he was so subtle no one would notice.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Heir
  • He liked the seaweed wrapped around the sushi roll: how tough it was to chew, the subtleness of the ocean water.
    John Green  --  An Abundance of Katherines
  • His face was a soft triangle, concluding in a chin so subtly dimpled she hadn’t seen it before that moment.
    Dave Eggers  --  The Circle
  • The craft were small and flew low, banking back and forth in lazy zigzags, and the noise of the surf had covered the subtle whine of their propellers.
    Ransom Riggs  --  Hollow City
  • The signs of his mental decline had been subtle at first, like forgetting to buy groceries or calling my mother by my aunt’s name.
    Ransom Riggs  --  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Every woman Travis dated was thus subjected to subtle, though unyielding, evaluation, especially by Megan.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Choice
  • His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.
    Patrick Rothfuss  --  The Name of the Wind
  • I did call the school and subtly inquire whether her attendance was satisfactory, and the school counselor told me it was.
    Chang-rae Lee  --  A Gesture Life
  • The shake is subtle and stops almost immediately.
    Pittacus Lore  --  I Am Number Four
  • The darkness began to warm, a subtle crimson brightness beyond her eyelids.
    Marissa Meyer  --  Cinder
  • Perhaps Will was able to read the subtle changes in my pressure on his skin; perhaps he was just more attuned to the moods of the people around him.
    Jojo Moyes  --  Me Before You
  • But, in truth, the days with Will were subtly different—depending on his mood and, more important, how much pain he was in.
    Jojo Moyes  --  Me Before You
  • He has subtler methods, too.
    Trenton Lee Stewart  --  The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • But Reynie noticed that — ever so subtly she had shifted the car into reverse.
    Trenton Lee Stewart  --  The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • "Your Highness," Chaol said, stepping forward, a subtle movement to keep himself between Nehemia and Celaena.
    Sarah J. Maas  --  Throne of Glass
  • But he seemed not to hear us as his eyes met Mr. Morrison’s and the two of them smiled in subtle understanding, the distance between them fading.
    Mildred D. Taylor  --  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  • It had to be Judge Green’s not-so-subtle method of applying pressure to Deacon.
    Scott Pratt  --  An Innocent Client
  • It was not only the unfamiliar cologne, but something more subtle.
    Diana Gabaldon  --  Outlander
  • Light—the faintest gleam imaginable —crept in subtly from the left, about six inches from floor level.
    Donna Tartt  --  The Goldfinch
  • I had so much to tell her, but the day had changed so subtly from what I had planned.
    James Patterson  --  1st to Die
  • The questions of the driver had the tone of a subtle examination.
    John Steinbeck  --  The Grapes of Wrath
  • —Sabellius, the African, subtlest heresiarch of all the beasts of the field, held that the Father was Himself His Own Son.
    James Joyce  --  Ulysses
  • When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form.
    Herman Melville  --  Moby Dick
  • She is too subtle for thee; and her smoothness, Her very silence, and her patience Speak to the people, and they pity her.
    William Shakespeare  --  As You Like It
  • Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections With an invisible and subtle stealth To creep in at mine eyes.
    William Shakespeare  --  Twelfth Night
  • How subtle you are, Afanasy Ivanovitch!
    Fyodor Dostoyevsky  --  The Idiot
  • The vicomte wished to begin his story and gave a subtle smile.
    Leo Tolstoy  --  War and Peace
  • As he said this, Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled subtly.
    Leo Tolstoy  --  Anna Karenina
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