The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is nuance. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.
What It Means
A nuance is a subtle distinction, variation, or quality in something, such as tone, color, meaning, etc.
// Her highly trained palate is able to detect nuances in fine wine that even most oenophiles cannot.
NUANCE in Context
“Chiwetel Ejiofor gets to go all kinds of over-the-top as an alien who has come to Earth to save both our planet and his own, but [Naomie] Harris has the difficult job of countering that with believable reactions. She’s our eyes into this sometimes inspired show, and Harris gives the character nuance that so many other actresses would have missed.” — Brian Tallerico, Vulture, 22 June 2022
Did You Know?
The history of nuance starts in Latin with the noun nūbēs, meaning “cloud.” Nūbēs floated into Middle French as nue, also meaning “cloud,” and nue gave rise to nuer, meaning “to make shades of color.” Nuer in turn produced nuance, which in Middle French meant “shade of color.” English borrowed nuance from French, with the meaning “a subtle distinction or variation,” in the late 18th century. That use persists today. Additionally, nuanceis sometimes used in a specific musical sense, designating a subtle, expressive variation in a musical performance (such as in tempo, dynamic intensity, or timbre) that is not indicated in the score.