A whisper, fraught with meaning. A gentle hint of something, most effective in the service of covertly slandering someone.

Sub"tle (?), a. [Compar. Subtler (?); superl. Subtlest (?).] [OE. sotil, subtil, OF. soutil, later subtil, F. subtil, L. subtilis; probably, originally, woven fine, and fr. sub under + tela a web, fr. texere to weave. See Text, and cf. Subtile.]

1.

Sly in design; artful; cunning; insinuating; subtile; -- applied to persons; as, a subtle foe.

"A subtle traitor."

Shak.

2.

Cunningly devised; crafty; treacherous; as, a subtle stratagem.

3.

Characterized by refinement and niceness in drawing distinctions; nicely discriminating; -- said of persons; as, a subtle logician; refined; tenuous; sinuous; insinuating; hence, penetrative or pervasive; -- said of the mind; its faculties, or its operations; as, a subtle intellect; a subtle imagination; a subtle process of thought; also, difficult of apprehension; elusive.

Things remote from use, obscure and subtle. Milton.

4.

Smooth and deceptive.

[Obs.]

Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground [bowling ground]. Shak.

Syn. -- Artful; crafty; cunning; shrewd; sly; wily. Subtle is the most comprehensive of these epithets and implies the finest intellectual quality. See Shrewd, and Cunning.

 

© Webster 1913.

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