Definition of delicate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdelikət/


1Very fine in texture or structure; of intricate workmanship or quality: a spider’s web, strong yet delicate
More example sentences
  • Your ears are connected to your nose and then to the sinuses by narrow passageways - delicate, intricate structures with a remarkable ability to recover after an infection such as a cold.
  • The crinkles in the gold leaf highlight the delicate texture of lace, the mottled surface of a pine plank table, or the peeling walls.
  • When at the click of a button you have the world on your screen, why bother debating the intricate and delicate fabrics our lives?
fine, exquisite, intricate, dainty;
flimsy, gauzy, filmy, floaty, diaphanous, wispy, insubstantial
1.1(Of a color or a scent) subtle and subdued: delicate pastel shades a delicate fragrance
More example sentences
  • The colours are dominated by delicate pastels and powdery shades of white, sand, cream and beige.
  • The brow pencil in Soft Brown is a delicate colour and blended well when it was brushed.
  • The raspberry vodka is photosensitive so, in contrast to their other flavours, they bottle it in dark glass so it keeps its delicate colour.
subtle, soft, muted;
pastel, pale, light
1.2(Of food or drink) subtly and pleasantly flavored: a delicate cream sauce
More example sentences
  • A fruity, off-dry style from the southerly Pfalz region, this comparatively delicate wine has a pleasantly spicy undertone that would work brilliantly with this dish.
  • Well done toast on the nose gives way to delicate strawberry and raspberry flavours with hazelnut to finish.
  • The spotted crab, known for the colorful blue streaks on its shell, as well as its sweet and delicate meat, is famous.
2Easily broken or damaged; fragile: delicate china
More example sentences
  • Chemicals from tobacco smoke get into your bloodstream and can damage the delicate blood vessels inside your eye.
  • Mouth injuries, such as biting the inside of your lip or even brushing too hard and damaging the delicate lining inside your mouth, also seem to bring on canker sores.
  • The lungs are also delicate and easily damaged if the ventilation is too aggressive.
fragile, breakable, frail
formal frangible
2.1(Of a person, animal, or plant) susceptible to illness or adverse conditions: his delicate health
More example sentences
  • And I never did interview her because I was aware of her delicate health and I wanted to do it properly - to spend an afternoon with her.
  • These are usually the more delicate plants such as Clematis viticella, which are best with an annual light prune followed by hard pruning every ten years.
  • Wildlife lovers in Cheshire have drawn up plans to protect the county's animals and delicate plants from future environmental threats.
sickly, unhealthy, frail, feeble, weak, debilitated;
unwell, infirm
formal valetudinarian
2.2(Of a state or condition) easily upset or damaged: owls have a delicate balance with their habitat
More example sentences
  • I kept it from you because I didn't want to upset you in your delicate condition.
  • The wonderful team of nurses cared not only for Lydia, but the delicate state of the family at this time.
  • Instead, it captures the delicate state of a country at its most vulnerable.
3Requiring sensitive or careful handling: delicate negotiations
More example sentences
  • Well, there s land acquisition (always an issue requiring delicate handling) and the cost of paying all those consultants.
  • She never really knew how to handle delicate situations requiring tact and sincere honesty.
  • Our readers have suggested the best ways to handle a delicate issue such as outlandish dressing by students in colleges.
difficult, tricky, sensitive, ticklish, awkward, problematic, touchy, prickly, thorny;
informal sticky, dicey
3.1(Of a person or an action) tactful and considerate: the most delicate tact was called for
More example sentences
  • This was no simple affair of the heart, but also a decision which entailed delicate political considerations.
  • Though he has a high school education, he has been trained to be a specialist here, and he considers his job as delicate as disarming a live bomb.
  • There has been a really delicate approach to this matter.
careful, sensitive, tactful, diplomatic, discreet, kid-glove
3.2Skillful and finely judged; deft: his delicate ball-playing skills
More example sentences
  • He possesses that deft and delicate touch that can transform interesting prose into mesmerising poetry.
  • He reaches out a hand and with one deft, delicate dart of the fingers rotates my book to face him.
  • The ladies are developing their newly acquired skills in the delicate art of egg decoration.
3.3(Of an instrument) highly sensitive.
Example sentences
  • Maintenance instruments are so delicate they have to remain in the shop's controlled environment.
  • Two antennas will allow the spacecraft to communicate with Earth in any configuration, always having the side hosting delicate instruments away from the Sun.
  • They gently transferred each minuscule mite to the host bee via the most delicate instrument available: an eyelash mounted to a small stick.
sensitive, precision, precise


A delicate fabric or garment made of such fabric.
Example sentences
  • It wasn't too long until I discovered her delicates (bras, panties, aerobic outfits, and make-up).
  • Just make sure that my delicates are washed by hand.
  • General sorting categories are whites, light colors, bright or deep-colored materials, permanent press, delicates, and clothes for the dry cleaners.


in a delicate condition

archaic Pregnant.
Example sentences
  • The timeline suggests, although I don't have proof, that she may have been in a delicate condition while she was at Yale.
  • If it wasn't for the fact that you are in a delicate condition, I would have tickled you mercilessly for that last comment.
  • To her dismay, she soon found herself in a delicate condition and was obliged to marry George.



Example sentences
  • It was fantastic and different, somehow managing to bring out the delicateness of fish and the heartiness of stew at the same time.
  • They were definitely a man's step, not the same delicateness of a woman, but they were definitely muffled, it sounded like a man who naturally walked silently.
  • It has a delicateness of tone that recalls Debussy.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'delightful, charming'): from French délicat or Latin delicatus, of unknown origin. Senses also expressed in Middle English (now obsolete) include 'voluptuous', 'self-indulgent', 'fastidious', and 'effeminate'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: del·i·cate

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