2. Delicately constituted or constructed; nice; fine; delicate; tenuous; finely woven. "A sotil [subtile] twine's thread." "More subtile web Arachne can not spin." (Spenser) "I do distinguish plain Each subtile line of her immortal face." (Sir J. Davies)
5. Characterised by nicety of discrimination; discerning; delicate; refined; subtle. [In this sense now commonly written subtle] "The genius of the Spanish people is exquisitely subtile, without being at all acute; hence there is so much humor and so little wit in their literature. The genius of the Italians, on the contrary, is acute, profound, and sensual, but not subtile; hence what they think to be humorous, is merely witty." (Coleridge) "The subtile influence of an intellect like Emerson's." (Hawthorne)
Synonyms: Subtile, Acute.
In acute the image is that of a needle's point; in subtile that of a thread spun out to fineness. The acute intellect pierces to its aim; the subtile (or subtle) intellect winds its way through obstacles. Sub"tilely, Sub"tileness.
Origin: L. Subtilis. See Subtile.
(01 Mar 1998)
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