1. Pleasing to the senses, especially in a subtle way: a delicate flavor; a delicate violin passage.
a. Easily broken or damaged: a kite too delicate to fly.
b. Exquisitely fine or dainty: delicate china. See Synonyms at exquisite.
c. Frail in constitution or health.
a. Marked by sensitivity of discrimination: a critic's delicate perception.
b. Very subtle in difference or distinction.
a. Having or showing great consideration or care: delicate remarks concerning the scandal.
b. Requiring careful or tactful treatment: a delicate situation.
5. Fine or soft in touch or skill: a surgeon's delicate touch.
6. Measuring, indicating, or responding to very small changes; precise: a delicate set of scales.
[Middle English delicat and French délicat, both from Latin dēlicātus, pleasing; akin to dēlicia, pleasure; see DELICIOUS.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.