c.1300, sutel, soutil
, in ref. to things, "of thin consistency;" in ref. to craftsmen, "skilled, clever," from O.Fr. soutil,
from L. subtilis
"fine, thin, delicate, finely woven," from sub
"under" + -tilis,
"web" and texere
"to weave" (see texture
). The spelling with -b-
reflects confusion with subtile.
Most non-material senses were present by late 14c.