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Subtle vs. subtil

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  • Subtle is the standard spelling of the adjective meaning (1) so slight as to be difficult to detect, (2) difficult to understand, (3) able to make fine distinctions, and (4) characterized by skill or ingenuity. Subtil is an archaic spelling of subtle. It is no longer used in any variety of English (though it is a modern word in French and German).

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    Subtle‘s corresponding noun is subtlety, though subtleness appears occasionally. Its adverb is subtly.

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