AskDefine | Define subtlety

Dictionary Definition



1 a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude; "without understanding the finer nuances you can't enjoy the humor"; "don't argue about shades of meaning" [syn: nuance, nicety, shade, refinement]
2 the quality of being difficult to detect or analyze; "you had to admire the subtlety of the distinctions he drew" [syn: niceness]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Old French sutilté, from subtīlitās < subtīlis "subtle".


  • /ˈsʌtəlti/


  1. The quality or fact of being subtle.
    With all his usual subtlety, he quietly fixed the problem before anyone else noticed it.
  2. An instance of being subtle, a subtle thing, especially a subtle argument or distinction.
    The subtleties of this overture are often overlooked.
  3. In the context of "countable|food": An ornate medieval illusion dish or table decoration, especially when made from one thing but crafted to look like another.
    At the king's coronation feast, several subtleties were served between main courses.


quality or act of being subtle
an instance of being subtle
illusion food
Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

A subtlety (also sotelty or soteltie) was an entertainment dish used in the Middle Ages. It was a type of entremet used in medieval England. Among the popular ingredients for subtleties were various kinds of fowl, especially peafowl and swans. The birds would often be plucked and skinned and their meat seasoned, and then baked, grilled, or boiled; stuffed with fillings of all kinds; and finally redressed with their own skins. Supported by concealed wooden struts and decorated with their original plumage, the birds would be served in lifelike poses. There were also or hunting scenes and similar tableaux made of sugar.



  • Adamson, Melitta Weiss (2004) Food in Medieval Times ISBN 0-313-32147-7
  • Strong, Roy (2003) Feast: A History of Grand Eating ISBN 0-7126-6759-8

External links

  • How to Cook Medieval - A modern guide on how to make Western European medieval cuisine and subtleties

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Italian hand, absoluteness, accuracy, acquired taste, acuteness, airiness, airy nothing, animal cunning, apparent soundness, appreciation, appreciation of differences, appreciation of excellence, appreciativeness, art, artfulness, artifice, artistic judgment, astuteness, attention to detail, attention to fact, bodilessness, cageyness, callidity, canniness, care for truth, casuistry, choiceness, circularity, circumstantiality, civilized taste, civilizedness, cleverness, complexity, complexness, complication, connoisseurship, conscientiousness, convolution, correctness, crabbedness, craft, craftiness, critical niceness, criticality, criticalness, cultivated taste, cultivation, culture, cunning, cunningness, daintiness, deceptiveness, delicacy, delicate distinction, detail, deviousness, differentia, differential, discriminating taste, discriminatingness, discrimination, discriminativeness, disingenuousness, distinction, distortion, elegance, entanglement, equivocalness, equivocation, ethereality, evasive reasoning, exactingness, exactitude, exactness, excellence, exquisiteness, faithfulness, fallaciousness, fallacy, fastidiousness, faultlessness, feel, feeling, fidelity, fine Italian hand, fine palate, fine point, fineness, finesse, finicality, finicalness, finickiness, finickingness, flawlessness, flimsiness, foxiness, fussiness, gamesmanship, good taste, grace, gracefulness, gracility, graciosity, graciousness, guile, guilefulness, hairline, immateriality, impalpability, imponderability, incorporeality, ingeniousness, insidiousness, insincerity, insolidity, insubstantiality, intangibility, intricacy, intricateness, inventiveness, involution, involvement, jesuitism, jesuitry, judiciousness, literalism, literality, literalness, low cunning, making distinctions, margin, mathematical precision, meticulousness, minuteness, misapplication, mistiness, mystification, narrow margin, nice distinction, niceness, niceness of distinction, nicety, nuance, obfuscation, obscurantism, one-upmanship, oversubtlety, palate, particle of difference, particularity, particularness, pawkiness, perfection, perplexity, perversion, philosophism, plausibility, plausibleness, point of difference, polish, preciseness, precisianism, precision, punctiliousness, punctuality, quality, ramification, rareness, rarity, rationalization, readiness, refined discrimination, refined palate, refinement, resourcefulness, right, rightness, rigidity, rigidness, rigor, rigorousness, satanic cunning, scrupulosity, scrupulousness, selectiveness, sense, sensibility, sensitivity, severity, shade of difference, sharpness, shiftiness, shrewdness, slickness, slightness, slipperiness, slyness, sneakiness, sophism, sophistical reasoning, sophistication, sophistry, special pleading, speciosity, specious reasoning, speciousness, stealth, stealthiness, strictness, subtility, subtilty, subtle distinction, subtleness, suppleness, tact, tactfulness, tanglement, taste, tastefulness, technicality, tenuity, tenuousness, textualism, the letter, thinness, treachery, trickiness, unconcreteness, unreality, unsolidity, unsubstantiality, unsubstantialness, vagueness, vicious circle, vicious reasoning, wariness, wide margin, wiles, wiliness, wit
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1