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From Middle English deynte (as noun), from Old French deintié, from Latin dignitātem. Doublet of dignity.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈdeɪnti/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪnti


dainty (comparative daintier, superlative daintiest)

  1. Elegant; delicately small and pretty.
    • 1622 (date written), Francis [Bacon], “An Advertisement Touching an Holy VVarre. []”, in William Rawley, editor, Certaine Miscellany VVorks of the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount S. Alban. [], London: [] I. Hauiland for Humphrey Robinson, [], published 1629, →OCLC, page 104:
      As for thoſe People of the Eaſt, (Goa, Calecute, Malaca,) they vvere a Fine, and Dainty People; Frugall, and yet Elegant, though not Militar.
    • 1634 October 9 (first performance), [John Milton], edited by H[enry] Lawes, A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: [] [Comus], London: [] [Augustine Matthews] for Hvmphrey Robinson, [], published 1637, →OCLC; reprinted as Comus: [] (Dodd, Mead & Company’s Facsimile Reprints of Rare Books; Literature Series; no. I), New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903, →OCLC:
      Those dainty limbs which nature lent / For gentle usage and soft delicacy.
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter I, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC:
      However, with the dainty volume my quondam friend sprang into fame. At the same time he cast off the chrysalis of a commonplace existence.
    • 1947 January and February, O. S. Nock, “"The Aberdonian" in Wartime”, in Railway Magazine, page 9:
      The cutting sides were gay with heather in bloom, and masses of dainty Scots bluebells, while patches of clear sky overhead were bringing life and colour to the sea.
  2. Fastidious and fussy, especially when eating.
  3. (obsolete) Excellent; valuable, fine.


Derived terms[edit]



dainty (plural dainties)

  1. A delicacy (choice or pleasing food).
    • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur Book XVI, Chapter vii leaf 337r:
      And she receyued hym with grete Ioye and made hym to sytte doune by her and soo was he sette to soupe with flesshe and many deyntees
      And she received him with great joy, and made him to sit down by her, and so was he set to sup with flesh and many dainties.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe:
      [] my case was deplorable enough, yet I had great cause for thankfulness that I was not driven to any extremities for food, but had rather plenty, even to dainties.
    • 1791, Homer, W[illiam] Cowper, transl., “[The Odyssey.] Book I.”, in The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, Translated into Blank Verse, [], volume II, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC, page 9, lines 172 and 174–177:
      And now a maiden [] ſupplied them, next, / With a reſplendent table, which the chaſte / Directreſs of the ſtores furniſh'd with bread / And dainties, remnants of the laſt regale.
  2. (Northwestern Ontario, Canadian Prairies, British Columbia, usually in the plural) A fancy cookie, pastry, or square, frequently homemade, served at a social event.
  3. (obsolete) Esteem, honour.
  4. (obsolete) An affectionate term of address.

Related terms[edit]



  • “dainty” in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2004.