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as in:  a subtle poison

She is working subtly against us.
  working in an indirect or hidden way
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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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  • 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.
  • 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

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  • "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
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Associated words [difficulty]:   subtle [1]
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