I know this is probably a very simple question, but it seems to me that I see "sophisticated" more in specialized books, and "intricate" more in non-specialized books. What's the difference?
closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, tenfour, MετάEd, Daniel, simchona♦ Feb 15 '12 at 20:09
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"Sophisticated" and "intricate" can both mean "complex" when used to describe an electronic or mechanical device, or a human institution. "This software product uses sophisticated encryptian software." "The clock has a sophisticated self-regulating mechanism." "Ruritania has a sophisticated parliamentary government." In all of those cases you could substitute "intricate" with no discernable change in meaning.
Maybe "sophisticated" has a positive connotation while "intricate" is more neutral. If you are trying to say that something is TOO complex, you would be more likely to say "intricate" than "sophisticated". But that's pretty subtle.
So in general, in this context I think they're pretty much synonymous.
Note "sophisticated" has another meaning, "not naive, wise in the ways of the world". You can say, "Jane was very innocent and naive in school but since she got a job and moved to the big city she has become very sophisticated." You wouldn't say "intricate" there.