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as in:  a subtle difference or thinker

She used subtle reasoning to expose the absurdity of his argument.
  not obvious, but understandable by someone with adequate sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps depending upon fine distinctions)


capable of understanding things that require sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps understanding fine distinctions)
 Mark word for later review on this computer
subtle subtly subtler subtlest subtleness
Senses of subtle are closely related — all having to do with fine distinctions.
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  • She used subtle reasoning to expose the absurdity of his argument.
  • She guessed which spices were used by their subtle aromas.
  • 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

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