\ ˈsen(t)s How to pronounce sense (audio) \

Definition of sense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
2a : 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 pluralfinally came to his senses
4a : 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
6a : 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)


sensed; sensing

Definition of sense (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

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

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Synonyms for sense

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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

Examples of sense in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That’s one reason why a later start — with students already scheduled to be home for Thanksgiving break — could make more sense. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Is the Big Ten’s football solution a compromise between ASAP and Thanksgiving? Buckeye Take," 9 Sep. 2020 And, of course, there is the sense that people are tired of The President Show. Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, "The Instant Nostalgia of the Televised Campaign," 9 Sep. 2020 Tucker Carlson drove to Mar-a-Lago and tried to talk sense into him about the crisis, but didn't seem to succeed. Brian Stelter, CNN, "What a time capsule of 6-month-old headlines tells us about coronavirus now," 9 Sep. 2020 The yearning to see Donald Trump put out of the White House is bound up with the yearning for the election to bring the sense of climactic change that has been stripped out of other aspects of our lives. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus, Climate Change, and the End of Seasons as We Knew Them," 9 Sep. 2020 There was funding from local and national emergency relief programs and a sense that the pandemic would soon end. Washington Post, "Sputtering summer sales, dwindling federal aid cripples D.C.’s small businesses," 9 Sep. 2020 The scientists have come up with a few ideas, but the one that makes the most sense to them is all thanks to Earth. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Is the Moon Covered in Rust? Even Scientists Are Stumped by This Metal Mystery," 9 Sep. 2020 From a policy perspective, the rule makes abundant sense. Jack Greiner, The Enquirer, "Strictly Legal: Comments about a group won't lead to individual libel claims," 9 Sep. 2020 And from some perspectives, this argument does make good sense. Grace Huckins, Wired, "Mental Health in the US is Suffering—Will It Go Back to Normal?," 8 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Caesar was demystified, stripped of all of his divine splendor, and the Romans could sense it. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "Put Not Your Trust in Princes (nor in Republicans)," 4 Sep. 2020 In another sign that House Republicans sense a pickup opportunity, McCarthy made a quiet fundraising stop in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to raise money for Owens and Blake Moore, the GOP nominee in the 1st Congressional District. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, "A massive advertising blitz is just beginning in Utah’s race between Ben McAdams and Burgess Owens," 3 Sep. 2020 Others sense any loss of air during the night and signal the pump to add air as required. Michael Pollick,, "The best airbed with built-in pump," 29 Aug. 2020 Its image-processing programs can detect oncoming vehicles, recognize traffic signs as well as lane markers and sense other objects around a car. Eyk Henning,, "German Auto Supplier Hella Weighs Software Unit Sale," 28 Aug. 2020 That said, every dog seems to sense this, and, when not on a leash, comes barreling toward me. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Child abuse survivor still hurting, well into adulthood," 12 Aug. 2020 That said, every dog seems to sense this, and, when not on a leash, comes barreling toward me. cleveland, "Dear Annie: Child abuse lasts a lifetime," 12 Aug. 2020 In the past several years, mosquito researchers have made big strides in determining what helps the bugs sense chemical cues from afar. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Mosquitoes Find Your Warm Blood So Appealing," 6 Feb. 2020 Could the Argentine tourists not sense the dolphin going limp in their arms? Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, "What Have We Done to the Whale?," 17 Aug. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of sense


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for sense

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

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Time Traveler for sense

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sense

Last Updated

12 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for sense


How to pronounce sense (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: one of the five natural powers (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) through which you receive information about the world around you
: a physical feeling : something that your body experiences
: a particular feeling : an emotion that you are aware of



English Language Learners Definition of sense (Entry 2 of 2)

: to understand or be aware of (something) without being told about it or having evidence that it is true
of a machine : to detect the presence or occurrence of (something)


\ ˈsens How to pronounce sense (audio) \

Kids Definition of sense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a specialized function or mechanism (as sight, taste, or touch) of the body that involves the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ
2 : awareness arrived at through or as if through the senses He felt a sense of danger.
3 : a particular sensation or kind of sensation I lost my sense of balance.
4 : the ability to make wise decisions
5 : an awareness or understanding of something a sense of humor a sense of pride
6 : a reason or excuse based on intelligence or good judgment There is no sense in continuing.
7 : a logical, sensible, or practical thing, act, or way of doing Saving money for the future makes sense.
8 : a meaning or one of a set of meanings a word, phrase, or story may have


sensed; sensing

Kids Definition of sense (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be or become aware of My cat can sense the approach of a storm.


\ ˈsen(t)s How to pronounce sense (audio) \

Medical Definition of sense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
sensed; sensing

Medical Definition of sense (Entry 2 of 2)

: to perceive by the senses

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