Subtle 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. [1913 Webster]

2. Cunningly devised; crafty; treacherous; as, a subtle stratagem. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

Things remote from use, obscure and subtle. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

4. Smooth and deceptive. [Obs.] [1913 Webster]

Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground [bowling ground]. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

Syn: Artful; crafty; cunning; shrewd; sly; wily.

Usage: Subtle is the most comprehensive of these epithets and implies the finest intellectual quality. See {Shrewd}, and {Cunning}. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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