Subtle vs Subordinate - What's the difference?

subtle | subordinate |

As adjectives the difference between subtle and subordinate

is that subtle is hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable while subordinate is placed in a lower class, rank, or position.

As a noun subordinate is

(senseid)(countable) one who is subordinate.

As a verb subordinate is

to make subservient.



Alternative forms

* subtil (obsolete) * subtile (obsolete)


  • Hard to grasp; not obvious or easily understood; barely noticeable.
  • The difference is subtle , but you can hear it if you listen carefully.
  • (of a thing) Cleverly contrived.
  • (of a person or animal) Cunning, skillful.
  • insidious
  • * 1623 , , act iv, scene 4,
  • Thy age confirmed, proud, subtle , bloody, treacherous.
  • Tenuous; rarefied; of low density or thin consistency.
  • Synonyms

    * crafty, cunning, skillful * (insidious) insidious


    * (hard to grasp) simple

    Derived terms

    * subtle body * subtleness * subtlety * subtly


    * * *


    * * * *




    (en adjective)
  • Placed in a lower class, rank, or position.
  • * Woodward
  • The several kinds and subordinate species of each are easily distinguished.
  • Submissive or inferior to, or controlled by, authority.
  • * South
  • It was subordinate , not enslaved, to the understanding.
  • (grammar, of a clause, not comparable) dependent on and either modifying or complementing the main clause
  • In the sentence, “The barbecue finished before John arrived”, the subordinate clause “before John arrived” specifies the time of the main clause, “The barbecue finished”.


    * lesser * (sense) dependent


    * superior, superordinate * (Submissive to or controlled by authority) insubordinate * (sense) independent, main

    See also

    * inferior


    (en noun)
  • (senseid)(countable) One who is subordinate.
  • Synonyms

    * (one who is subordinate) inferior, junior, report, underling, understrapper


    * (one who is subordinate) boss, commander, leader, manager, superior, supervisor


  • To make subservient.
  • To treat as of less value or importance.
  • (finance) To make of lower priority in order of payment in bankruptcy.
  • Synonyms

    * (treat as of less value or importance) belittle, denigrate