Nuance In A Sentence: So Subtle You Might Miss It!

Sometimes, the way we describe something can shift the whole idea. Imagine someone walking across the room. What’s the difference between saying “he’s marching across the room” and “he’s shuffling across the room”? This slight and subtle change in shades of meaning is referred to as “nuance”. 

The term nuance is becoming more and more popular. You might hear it in a random conversation, catch it while watching 7 PM news, or read it in the newspaper. If you want to truly understand the meaning of nuance, though, you are in the right place! This post will explain everything, from the origin of the word, the definition, to how to use nuance in a sentence

Where Does Nuance Come From? 

Nuance In A Sentence: So Subtle You Might Miss It!
How to use nuance in a sentence. Source:

Stanford Daily,, and several other sources all agreed that “nuance” came from the French word “nuer”, which means “shade, hue”. According to The New York Times, in 1781, novelist, historian, and politician Horace Walpole was the first person to use the word “nuance” in English. Particularly, he wrote: 

“The more expert one were at nuances, the more poetic one should be.” 

However, the root of “nuance” might be even further than that. You can trace it back to Latin where “nubes” stands for “clouds”. It actually makes a lot of sense because when you look at the clouds, you can observe their subtle graduations in colors. This image provides you a better understanding of how “nuance” is used in modern days. 

Definition Of The Word Nuance

When you look for the word on Oxford Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, and Collins Dictionary, you will see one similar interpretation: 

Nuance (/ˈnjuːɑːns/) (noun)

A very slight difference in meaning, sound, color, or somebody’s feeling that is not usually very obvious.

Nuance meaning in Hindi: सूक्ष्म अंतर” 

The keyword here is “a very slight difference”. So, regardless of what the difference is in, you might use nuance in a sentence when something is so vague and difficult to point out. Of course, there will always be people who are more sensitive to these subtle changes. Either they were born with an innate ability to express these things, or they have trained themselves enough in one particular field (music, literature, art, …) to be highly aware of the smallest modifications. 

Is Nuance A Synonym For Subtle?

Definition Of The Word Nuance.
A subtle difference in meaning. Source:

At this point, perhaps you are thinking “nuance” is just another way of saying “subtle”. However, these two are completely different:

  • Nuance is a noun (which can sometimes be used as a verb). Subtle is an adjective. 
  • In terms of meaning, nuance refers to something that is complex and cannot be defined well. On the other hand, when you call a thing “subtle”, it is barely noticeable. 

Usage: How To Use Nuance In A Sentence

So, how to use nuance in a sentence? The word nuance can be used as a noun or a verb and applied to a wide variety of topics. As a noun, it stands for a vague distinction. As a verb, it means “to give subtle differences to”. 

You might have heard people say “subtle nuance”, meaning there is an “unobvious difference”. It is not grammatically wrong but it’s redundant since a “nuance” itself is already “unobvious”. 

Nuance In Different Contexts

In writing, you can use this term to describe a subtle difference in meaning. As the first paragraph mentions, it is associated with connotation, or the ideas and feelings you create by specific word choices and subtext. 

Have you ever seen a breathtaking artwork that you couldn’t help but keep staring at it? When you take time to observe it intently, all of its details will be more vivid. The more time you spend looking at it, the more analytical you become. By doing so, you shall be able to see all the elements in a brand new light. Even if some of the details seem to be mundane at first, at a certain point, they will become “nuances” that make the work much more intriguing. 

Gazing at a nuanced artwork. Source:

In the two examples above, “nuance” talks about a defining aspect that lies deep down and requires you to be very discerning or analytical to realize. 

Another example is the squirrel you always see in your backyard. While every squirrel you have ever seen in your life is similar, you might notice the different pattern in his fur, the shape of his tail, to tell exactly which one belongs to your backyard. The subtle distinction that sets him apart from other squirrels is the nuance we are talking about. 

Hence, people can also use “nuance” to mention the slightest difference in a feature or characteristic. For instance, it is possible to distinguish between two artists who share similar aesthetics due to the “nuances” that are presented in their color palette, their composition, or the way they shape their brushstrokes. Still, to do this, you have to pause long enough to make these critical observations. Otherwise, you will miss out on each artist’s unique style and, therefore, cannot tell the distinction. 

This word is applicable for sound and music as well. Imagine two singers singing the same song, using the same beat, in the exact same tune and tempo. One of them might still add “nuance” by slightly hesitating before singing the chorus, adding some extra deep to a certain note, or sing some words louder or softer than others. In this case, it is safe to say that the performance has been “nuanced”. 

Examples Of Using Nuance In A Sentence

Let’s check out some of the examples below to make sure that you fully grab the meaning of this word and understand how to use nuance in a sentence

  • Sarah tends to analyze every nuance in conversations. 
  • Being a musician, he notices all the nuances in the song. 
  • Look closely, and you will notice the nuance of color in fall leaves. 
  • I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with every little nuance. 
  • Our eyes and facial expressions can communicate virtually every nuance of emotion. 

“Nuance” opens the gate to a greater understanding of slight differences. It helps you become more aware of the subjects and raises more questions because sometimes the key aspects lie in subtleties. Therefore, understand the definition and how to use nuance in a sentence can be helpful for you in many situations. 

More Like This? 

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Iris Vida

Well, Iris Vida is very into reading books from different eras, cultures, and anything that has been going viral lately, etc. Her passions can't be put in a few words only. Whether it's the "Jazz Age," a Neil Gaiman notable novel, the pitter-patter melodies of Taylor Swift's music, or anything else, she always sends the best materials to her top-notch writings, engaging all readers everywhere. Moreover, like Nick Carraway, who captured global attention with his rich and glamorous look, she leaves readers with a satisfying sense of wonder and an urge to learn more with her compelling writing style.