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[noo-ahns, nyoo-, noo-ahns, nyoo-; French ny-ahns] /ˈnu ɑns, ˈnyu-, nuˈɑns, nyu-; French nüˈɑ̃s/
noun, plural nuances
[noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-, noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-; French ny-ahns] /ˈnu ɑn sɪz, ˈnyu-, nuˈɑn sɪz, nyu-; French nüˈɑ̃s/ (Show IPA)
a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.
a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.
Origin of nuance
1775-85; < French: shade, hue, equivalent to nu(er) to shade (literally, to cloud < Vulgar Latin *nūbāre, derivative of *nūba, for Latin nūbēs cloud) + -ance -ance
Related forms
nuanced, adjective
unnuanced, adjective
1. subtlety, nicety, hint, refinement. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for nuance
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He is a nuance, and is the first German to understand women!

    Egoists James Huneker
  • He was the master of the nuance, and the nuance was his lyricism, his special gift, his genius.

    Adventures in the Arts Marsden Hartley
  • Yet he savours his palate with every nuance, every elusive and delicate melody that the genius of Lothian gives us.

    The Drunkard Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull
  • Of course I don't expect you, just at first, to feel the difference, to see the nuance.

    The Reef Edith Wharton
  • He succeeded in making Mme. de Brecourt seize this nuance; she embraced the idea with her quick inflammability.

    The Reverberator Henry James
British Dictionary definitions for nuance


/njuːˈɑːns; ˈnjuːɑːns/
a subtle difference in colour, meaning, tone, etc; a shade or graduation
verb (transitive; passive)
to give subtle differences to: carefully nuanced words
Word Origin
C18: from French, from nuer to show light and shade, ultimately from Latin nūbēs a cloud
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nuance

1781, from French nuance "slight difference, shade of color" (17c.), from nuer "to shade," from nue "cloud," from Gallo-Romance *nuba, from Latin nubes "a cloud, mist, vapor," from PIE *sneudh- "fog" (cf. Avestan snaoda "clouds," Latin obnubere "to veil," Welsh nudd "fog," Greek nython, in Hesychius "dark, dusky"). According to Klein, a reference to "the different colors of the clouds."


1886, from nuance (n.). Related: Nuanced.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nuance in Culture
nuance [(nooh-ahns)]

A fine shade of meaning: “I liked the film, but I know I missed some of its nuances.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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