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as in:  a subtle shade of blue

a subtle, but unmistakable warning
  understated so as not to draw attention to itself
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subtle subtly subtler subtlest subtleness
Senses of subtle are closely related — all having to do with fine distinctions.
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  • a subtle, but unmistakable warning
  • She has a good eye for subtle differences in color.
  • 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

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  • 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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Associated words [difficulty]:   subtle [1]
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Most commonly used in these subjects:   Fine Arts & Music, Architecture, Human Behavior
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