A 4mo baby in a hospital room suffers respiratory distress, and at this point. has no pulse. The whole room is bustling, everyone has a job to do and they are not necessarily rushing but still working swiftly because seconds matter.

The heart rhythm eventually degrades to asystole, and the trauma specialist starts doing chest compressions. She uses only two fingers on the baby's chest, which is not bigger than her whole hand; his body seems so fragile, especially now. She barely exerts any pressure, and it would almost be an effortless routine were it not for the circumstances. But she is sweating, completely focused on what she is doing and does her job with precision, even while she has to glance at her watch to keep from losing sense of time as her own heart starts to beat faster.

I'm wracking my brain trying to find an adverb that describes the nuance of this situation perfectly in one word, but nothing I've come up with has given me that "Oh I got it!" you get after the word that was on the tip of your tongue comes to mind. (In my case it's been at the back of my head for a few days...)

I included extended context that (almost) evoked this word in my head in the hopes that it succeeds in someone else's but to put it as determinately as I can, I guess it would mean gently, or carefully controlling one's actions so as not to damage something easily broken, but intently and purposefully.

For other situations, it could be used to describe how someone would work on restoring an irreplaceable work of art, or a bomb technician working to deactivate an explosive device, but not, for example, someone being careful not to make a sound as she sneaks back into the house and upstairs to her room after coming home late to avoid being detected by her parents.

Some words that keep popping up in my head are:


Some of these are sorta what I'm looking for, but I feel like theres a better one, and some of these only capture part of the meaning of what I'm trying to say.

P.S. I am almost sure the word I'm thinking of exists, but, and this is a problem I keep running into recently, it might not be an English word 😬. I'm bilingual, but I've lost proficiency in my mother language over years of its disuse, and now, sometimes I have this "word/idiom on the tip of my tongue that would perfectly capture the meaning of whatever" moment that would be resolved maybe the next week, but only for me to find that I had been thinking of a word/idiom in Korean that doesn't have a perfect English equivalent. So sorry if this is the case and I am wasting your time, but any help would be appreciated.

  • Avoid answering questions in comments. Post comments here only to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Other types of comment can be posted in the main chatroom or a chatroom created for the purpose.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 11, 2018 at 19:47
  • 1
    Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Here, results of a thesaurus search for 'carefully' or 'meticulously' (both of which you use) would be appropriate. Jan 11, 2018 at 20:55
  • Is it the "wise restraint" required or more about the "tenuousness" of the situations that you hope to convey ?
    – Tom22
    Jan 11, 2018 at 21:34
  • I wrote up an answer using the word "judicious" however I've deleted it as it would only make sense if the OP hoped to put in extra doses of "wisdom" and "experience" in ... which upon more careful reading I don't see a direct hope for. Something like judiciously, or "judicious care" could infuse a greater emphasis on the need for "knowledge" of the situation?
    – Tom22
    Jan 11, 2018 at 22:13
  • @EdwinAshworth I'm sorry, I will make sure to do so in the future. The only research I had done was using some less-than-comprehensive online resources (namely thesaurus.com and the like). I really want a good thesaurus, something substantial, something comparable to the OED, is there such a thing? I remember when I found out how much the OED cost my parents as a kid, it confounded me why they paid so much for a dictionary (not to mention the shelf space it took up) but found it more and more useful esp. in later high school years. I would be more than willing to buy a thesaurus like that Jan 20, 2018 at 4:57

1 Answer 1


I would suggest the word lurking in your own question : delicately.

In a way that is sensitive or responsive to the slightest influences; sensitively; with nice exactness.


The instruments employed should be fine and the operation delicately performed ...

The Principles and Practice of Operative Surgery

  • +1. I was going to give this answer also. Macmillan has this definition: "in a careful way, so that something is not damaged."
    – ermanen
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:22
  • @ermanen It is an interesting concept. The thing itself is delicate and the way it is treated is also described as delicate.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:32
  • I do like this answer as "delicately" directly suggests the care applied within a delicate/fragile situation... all of the care, awareness, and description of the situation itself rolled together.
    – Tom22
    Jan 11, 2018 at 21:52
  • This is very interesting, I've never thought that when the word delicately is used, there is an implication that whatever you're doing delicately, the thing you're doing it with/to/on is also delicate. But after reading your answer, I can't imagine why/how it couldn't! Jan 20, 2018 at 4:45
  • @user3052786 Yes, it's an unusual piece of language.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 20, 2018 at 4:47

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