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See also: délicate



From Middle English delicat, from Latin dēlicātus (giving pleasure, delightful, soft, luxurious, delicate, in Medieval Latin also fine, slender), from dēlicia, usually in plural dēliciae (pleasure, delight, luxury), from dēliciō (I allure, entice), from dē- (away) + laciō (I lure, I deceive), from Proto-Italic *lakjō (to draw, pull), of unknown ultimate origin. Compare delight, delicious and Spanish delgado (thin, skinny).


  • IPA(key): /ˈdɛlɪkət/
  • (file)


delicate (comparative more delicate, superlative most delicate)

  1. Easily damaged or requiring careful handling.
    Those clothes are made from delicate lace.
    The negotiations were very delicate.
    • 1850 April 18, Frederik W. Robertson, An Address Delivered to the Members of the Working Man's Institute[1], page 5:
      There are some things too delicate and too sacred to be handled rudely without injury to truth.
    • 2012 April 23, Angelique Chrisafis, “François Hollande on top but far right scores record result in French election”, in the Guardian[2]:
      The final vote between Hollande and Sarkozy now depends on a delicate balance of how France's total of rightwing and leftwing voters line up.
  2. Characterized by a fine structure or thin lines.
    Her face was delicate.
    The spider wove a delicate web.
    There was a delicate pattern of frost on the window.
  3. Intended for use with fragile items.
    Set the washing machine to the delicate cycle.
  4. Refined; gentle; scrupulous not to trespass or offend; considerate; said of manners, conduct, or feelings.
    delicate behaviour
    delicate attentions
    delicate thoughtfulness
  5. Of weak health; easily sick; unable to endure hardship.
    a delicate child
    delicate health
  6. (informal) Unwell, especially because of having drunk too much alcohol.
    Please don't speak so loudly: I'm feeling a bit delicate this morning.
  7. (obsolete) Addicted to pleasure; luxurious; voluptuous; alluring.
  8. Pleasing to the senses; refined; adapted to please an elegant or cultivated taste.
    a delicate dish
    delicate flavour
    • 1861, Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage:
      They would give up ideas of gentle living, of soft raiment, and delicate feeding.
  9. Slight and shapely; lovely; graceful.
  10. Light, or softly tinted; said of a colour.
    a delicate shade of blue
  11. Of exacting tastes and habits; dainty; fastidious.
  12. Highly discriminating or perceptive; refinedly critical; sensitive; exquisite.
    a delicate taste
    a delicate ear for music
  13. Affected by slight causes; showing slight changes.
    a delicate thermometer


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


delicate (plural delicates)

  1. A delicate item of clothing, especially underwear or lingerie.
    Don't put that in with your jeans: it's a delicate!
  2. (obsolete) A choice dainty; a delicacy.
    • 1712, William King, The Art of Cookery, in Imitation of Horace's Art of Poetry:
      With Abstinence all Delicates he Sees, / And can regale himself with Toast and Cheese.
  3. (obsolete) A delicate, luxurious, or effeminate person.
    • 1830, “The Barge's Crew”, in The Log Book; Or, Nautical Miscellany[3], page 341:
      A council of war was called, and the delicates met in the great cabin ; the platform was rigged up on the forecastle, the yard-rope rove, and the signal made for all boats to attend execution
    • 1603, Plutarch, translated by Philemon Holland, The Philosophie, Commonlie Called, The Morals [], London: [] Arnold Hatfield, →OCLC:
      If Lucullus were not a waster and a delicate given to belly-cheare.
  4. A moth, Mythimna vitellina

Further reading[edit]



  • IPA(key): /de.liˈka.te/
  • Rhymes: -ate
  • Hyphenation: de‧li‧cà‧te


delicate f pl

  1. feminine plural of delicato





  1. vocative masculine singular of dēlicātus


  • delicate”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • delicate”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • delicate in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette





  1. feminine/neuter plural nominative/accusative of delicat