I often see the word 'nuance' used when describing a politicians views. One example of this in a sentence is that "This person lacks nuance." I'm having trouble understanding this in the context of the main definition which is "a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound." Is there a separate meaning when used in this context?

Here are some other examples: https://www.google.com/search?q=trump+nuance

  • 1
    What about the dictionary definition is unclear to you in those contexts?
    – Drew
    Jan 31, 2017 at 0:23
  • Well I understand nuance when used in a different context. Like one example I've read is if two singers sing the same song, only one sings it slightly differently, then the performance is nuanced (thus "subtle difference in sound"). But if a politician lacks nuance, they lack "a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound"? I really don't understand that. Doesn't make sense to me. Jan 31, 2017 at 0:26
  • In US politics, nuance likely means a politician's ability to convey his position on an issue to one audience and the opposite position on the same issue to another audience while still being able to convince everyone he isn't lying to one or both audiences. Those skilled in nuance have managed to suppress their own recognition of cognitive dissonance, or if they recognize it, are psychopathic enough not to be bothered by it.
    – deadrat
    Jan 31, 2017 at 0:46
  • In politics it basically means the same as "plausible deniability".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 31, 2017 at 1:21
  • There are any number of nuances of gray between black and white. Someone who sees everything as black or white cannot see those nuances.
    – Drew
    Jan 31, 2017 at 2:43

3 Answers 3


When applied to a person, it means the person lacks the ability to distinguish nuance (and thus make good judgements). If applied to the views, the views indicate the person's lack of ability to distinguish nuance.

It may be stretching the dictionary definition to apply it to people and views rather than the quality itself, but that's how it is used.


Perhaps the wording of the definition is confusing you?

When reading a definition or any sentence that contains multiple subjects and predicates, separate them out so you can understand the statements separately:

  • Nuance is a subtle difference of meaning
  • Nuance is a subtle difference of expression
  • Nuance is a subtle difference of sound

  • Nuance is a shade of meaning

  • Nuance is a shade of expression
  • Nuance is a shade of sound
  • Here's a specific example I'm having trouble with: cnbc.com/2016/11/02/… . What do they mean by "Trump lacks nuance"? Are they saying he doesn't have the ability to understand small differences in meaning/expression/sound? Jan 31, 2017 at 0:29
  • In this example the author is signifying that subtle differences between people's lives are not present in the generalizing statements made. Jan 31, 2017 at 0:32
  • I see, that makes sense. Like you said I was hung up on the wording of the definition which confused me. Jan 31, 2017 at 0:33

I believe it is also being used to refer to specific parameters or elements of topic in any subject or argument.

The constitution is nuanced.

I would like to have a more nuanced discussion about this fact.

Maybe? I'm not a vernacularist or etymologist.

Or maybe people are just misusing the word...

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