sense

1 of 2

noun

1
: a meaning conveyed or intended : import, signification
especially : one of a set of meanings a word or phrase may bear especially as segregated in a dictionary entry
2
a
: the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs
b
: a specialized function or mechanism (such as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch) by which an animal receives and responds to external or internal stimuli
c
: the sensory mechanisms constituting a unit distinct from other functions (such as movement or thought)
3
: conscious awareness or rationality
usually used in plural
finally came to his senses
4
a
: a particular sensation or kind or quality of sensation
a good sense of balance
b
: a definite but often vague awareness or impression
felt a sense of insecurity
a sense of danger
c
: a motivating awareness
a sense of shame
d
: a discerning awareness and appreciation
her sense of humor
5
: consensus
the sense of the meeting
6
a
: capacity for effective application of the powers of the mind as a basis for action or response : intelligence
b
: sound mental capacity and understanding typically marked by shrewdness and practicality
also : agreement with or satisfaction of such power
this decision makes sense
7
: one of two opposite directions especially of motion (as of a point, line, or surface)

sense

2 of 2

verb

sensed; sensing

transitive verb

1
a
: to perceive by the senses (see sense entry 1 sense 2)
b
: to be or become conscious of
sense danger
2
3
: to detect automatically especially in response to a physical stimulus (such as light or movement)
Choose the Right Synonym for sense

sense, common sense, judgment, wisdom mean ability to reach intelligent conclusions.

sense implies a reliable ability to judge and decide with soundness, prudence, and intelligence.

a choice showing good sense

common sense suggests an average degree of such ability without sophistication or special knowledge.

common sense tells me it's wrong

judgment implies sense tempered and refined by experience, training, and maturity.

they relied on her judgment for guidance

wisdom implies sense and judgment far above average.

a leader of rare wisdom

Example Sentences

Noun There is an unnerving sense now that technology is driving the culture rather than the reverse. Machines and sites and software are breeding at an exponential clip, and we hapless humans race around trying to adapt. Steven Johnson, Discover, July 2006 The caricature of neurotic nuns who specialized in corporal punishment and guilt crumbles before the countless examples of women religious who made the difference in determining that a child would eat, or be safe, or have any sense of dignity at all. Luke Timothy Johnson, Commonweal, 22 Sept. 2006 Because Updike shrinks from giving any real credence to the ideology that drives his plot (in both senses of that word), the book becomes a temporarily enthralling, but ultimately empty shaggy dog story. Jonathan Raban, New York Review of Books, 13 July 2006 Less distinguished people experience a similar tangling of the senses, some reporting that they can taste the words they speak or see the colors of certain words or numbers. This confounding of perception—called synesthesia—was thought to affect at most about 4 percent of the population, but University College London psychologist Jamie Ward has uncovered the best evidence yet that we may all have a bit of synesthesia. Kathryn Garfield, Discover, December 2006 All of my senses were on the alert for danger. We had a sense that something wasn't quite right. His senses were clear despite his illness. Verb The latest feature on air conditioners is a big new plug to help prevent fires. The plug shuts down power when it senses that the air conditioner cord is damaged. Consumer Reports, July 2005 With very little provocation, magic might have been flying back and forth in an unpleasant and damaging manner. Sensing the danger, Kate stepped between them and raised her hands. "Let us have no more of this. There is a confusion to be cleared up, and I cannot do that in the middle of a brannigan," she said. John Morressy, Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2004 In Pecnik, he had instantly sensed a kindred spirit. As a boy Pecnik had strapped homemade parachutes to hamsters and tossed them (without harm) from his sixth-story bedroom window; by the time he joined the Croatian national team he was making his own jumpsuits. William Speed Weed, Popular Science, July 2003 She immediately sensed my dislike. A motion detector can sense movement. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Chicago has already started developing her own fashion sense. Hannah Kerns, Peoplemag, 26 Jan. 2023 Bring a toboggan, some friends, and your sense of adventure and race in the 32nd annual US National Toboggan Championships in Camden, Maine, Feb. 3-5. Kari Bodnarchuk, BostonGlobe.com, 26 Jan. 2023 How do the film and television versions of the novels translate their sense of difficulty? Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 26 Jan. 2023 Losing those 24 pounds really improved my overall sense of myself. Jesse Hicks, Men's Health, 25 Jan. 2023 Over the past few months, Dua Lipa has effortlessly transitioned her chic fashion sense from mild weather vibes to cool girl winter. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 25 Jan. 2023 Therefore, understanding the layers that comprise your sense of identity can be very powerful. Saba Hasanie, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 Thank you for giving me strength, my heart, my empathy, my courage, my sense of humor, my manners, my temper, my wildness, my tenacity. Christi Carrasstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 22 Jan. 2023 Thank you for giving me strength, my heart, my empathy, my courage, my sense of humor, my manners, my temper, my wildness, my tenacity. Rebecca Angel Baer, Southern Living, 22 Jan. 2023
Verb
Many people now sense that the progressive left has a hammer lock on public opinion through its control of most media, the universities, Hollywood and the diversity, equity and inclusion apparatus of every large company. James Hankins, WSJ, 13 Jan. 2023 The interaction was pregnant with meaning that the boy could sense but not quite grasp. Daniel Oppenheimer, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2022 But some experts sense a shift in people’s attitudes about death. Maggie Donahue, Longreads, 25 Oct. 2022 Now, Maoz and his colleagues are working to improve the TENG-IT so that users can sense not only pressure, but temperature and pain, as well. Rena Kingery, Discover Magazine, 12 May 2022 These units don’t run continuously, and cannot sense carbon monoxide and therefore cannot be used in place of carbon monoxide or smoke detectors. Lynn Redmile, Good Housekeeping, 3 Jan. 2023 In 2023, emotional AI—technology that can sense and interact with human emotions—will become one of the dominant applications of machine learning. Pragya Agarwal, WIRED, 31 Dec. 2022 But Samantha, who could sense the potential for danger, didn’t go. Desiree Stennett, Orlando Sentinel, 28 Dec. 2022 Jones Wong, a 23-year-old North Shore native, describes Pipeline as a character, one that can sense pompous surfers a mile away and quickly introduce them to humility through the reef below the surface. Talya Minsberg Gabriella Angotti-jones, New York Times, 22 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sense.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French sen, sens sensation, feeling, mechanism of perception, meaning, from Latin sensus, from sentire to perceive, feel; perhaps akin to Old High German sinnan to go, strive, Old English sith journey — more at send

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of sense was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near sense

Cite this Entry

“Sense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sense. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

sense

1 of 2 noun
1
: a meaning or one of a set of meanings a word, phrase, or story may have
2
a
: the power to become aware of by means of sense organs
b
: a specialized function or mechanism (as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch) of the body that involves the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ
the pain sense
3
a
: a particular sensation or kind of sensation
a good sense of balance
b
: awareness arrived at through or as if through the senses
a vague sense of danger
c
: an awareness and appreciation of something
a fine sense of humor
4
b
: good reason or excuse
no sense in waiting

sense

2 of 2 verb
sensed; sensing
1
: to become aware of through the senses
2
: to be or become conscious of
sense danger
3
: to detect automatically especially in response to a physical quantity (as light or movement)

Medical Definition

sense

1 of 2 noun
1
a
: the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs
b
: a specialized function or mechanism (as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch) by which an animal receives and responds to external or internal stimuli
c
: the sensory mechanisms constituting a unit distinct from other functions (as movement or thought)
2
: a particular sensation or kind or quality of sensation
a good sense of balance

sense

2 of 2 transitive verb
sensed; sensing
: to perceive by the senses

More from Merriam-Webster on sense

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