Etymology: Middle English delicat, from Latin delicatus given to self-indulgence, fastidious, subtly pleasing, not robust; akin to Latin delicere to allure
Date: 14th century
1. pleasing to the senses:
a. generally pleasant <the climate's delicate, the air most sweet — Shakespeare> b. pleasing to the sense of taste or smell especially in a mild or subtle way <a delicate aroma> <a robust wine will dominate delicate dishes> c. marked by daintiness or charm of color, lines, or proportions <a delicate floral print> <an ample tear trilled down her delicate cheek — Shakespeare> d. marked by fineness of structure, workmanship, or texture <a delicate tracery> <a delicate lace> 2. a. marked by keen sensitivity or fine discrimination <delicate insights> <a more delicate syntactic analysis — R. H. Robins> b. fastidious, squeamish <a person of delicate tastes> 3. a. not robust in health or constitution ; weak, sickly <had been considered a delicate child> b. easily torn or damaged ; fragile <the delicate chain of life> 4. a. requiring careful handling: (1) easily unsettled or upset <a delicate balance> <the delicate relationships defined by the Constitution — New Yorker> (2) requiring skill or tact <in a delicate position> <delicate negotiations> <a delicate operation> (3) involving matters of a deeply personal nature ; sensitive <this is a delicate matter. Could I possibly speak to you alone — Daphne Du Maurier> b. marked by care, skill, or tact <delicate handling of a difficult situation> 5. marked by great precision or sensitivity <a delicate instrument> Synonyms: see choice • delicately adverb II. noun Date: 15th century something delicate
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.