My Chinese coworkers were describing Korean drama TV shows & said that the actors faces are "细腻" xi4ni4. When I look this up in my dictionary, I get 2 definitions "fine & smooth" or "exquisite". I don't think those capture the meaning my coworkers intended. When they tried to describe what they were saying, they said something like the actors don't have to SAY what they are feeling, you can see in their eyes & so forth.

Is this just one of those words that is difficult to convey in English or is there a good way to translate it based on this context?


1 Answer 1


细腻 in acting means delicacy and attention to details, also implying sensibility and emotional subtlety.

演员的表情细腻入微。The actor performed with great delicacy and sensibility.

  • The 4 character phrase "细腻入微" translates as "nuanced" via Google translate. That seems like the perfect word to me! Is "细腻" used by itself as shorthand for this? Is it safe to say the 2 characters have the same meaning as the 4 characters in some contexts? Thanks for your help!
    – aelephant
    Apr 29, 2013 at 22:43
  • 4
    @aelephant 细腻 is not the shorthand of 细腻入微. 入微 is a standalone adverb meaning 'to the extreme level of detail' which can be attached after many adjectives like 体贴入微 (<b>thoughtful</b> care), 剖析入微 (<b>in-depth</b> analysis), etc. 细腻 has different meanings in different contexts, for the one we are discussing here you can use 细腻入微 as a stronger version of 细腻.
    – NS.X.
    Apr 30, 2013 at 0:49
  • When we play billiards, if someone pushes a ball gently and achieves the precise position, we can say the operation is 细腻. Apr 15, 2019 at 6:07

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