sensibility

noun

sen·​si·​bil·​i·​ty ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce sensibility (audio)
plural sensibilities
1
: ability to receive sensations : sensitiveness
tactile sensibility
2
: peculiar susceptibility to a pleasurable or painful impression (as from praise or a slight)
often used in plural
3
: awareness of and responsiveness toward something (such as emotion in another)
4
: refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste with especial responsiveness to the pathetic

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The meanings of sensibility run the gamut from mere sensation to excessive sentimentality. In between is a capacity for delicate appreciation, a sense often pluralized. In Jane Austen's books, sensibility is mostly an admirable quality she attributes to, or finds lacking in, her characters: "He had ... a sensibility to what was amiable and lovely" (of Mr. Elliot in Persuasion). In Sense and Sensibility, however, Austen starts out by ascribing to Marianne sensibleness, on the one hand, but an "excess of sensibility" on the other: "Her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation ... she was everything but prudent."

Examples of sensibility in a Sentence

The writer is remembered most for his sensibility. She's a woman of poetic sensibility.
Recent Examples on the Web Shows like The Gilded Age and The Forsyte Saga and a love for all things vintage have reintroduced the late 19th and early 20th-century sensibility to younger interior designers and home decor aficionados. Sharon Greenthal, Better Homes & Gardens, 28 Mar. 2024 That’s to your credit and, insofar as your errant old minister helped shape the moral sensibility of your church, just possibly to his. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 22 Mar. 2024 The decision to scuttle the show comes after some work to rejigger it to fit the sensibilities of Showtime — now known as Paramount+ With Showtime after the premium cable outlet was integrated into Paramount’s flagship streaming platform. Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Mar. 2024 The component reflects the aesthetic sensibilities of DeLorean’s DMC-12, unveiled as a prototype in 1976 and built from 1981 through 1982. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 14 Mar. 2024 Jimmy Kimmel is a competent host, and did a satisfying job as the evening’s emcee, but passing the reins to a new stand-up comic with the right sensibilities and love of movies to highlight an evening such as the Oscars is more than appropriate at this point. Clayton Davis, Variety, 11 Mar. 2024 The sensibility, de Matteo says, is meant to be goofy. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 7 Mar. 2024 Schindler, who works as a Portuguese-English interpreter, is a longtime Washingtonian with an old-world sensibility. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 22 Mar. 2024 Instantly wearable styles that marry novelty with everyday sensibility. Talia Abbas, Vogue, 22 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sensibility.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sensibility was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near sensibility

Cite this Entry

“Sensibility.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sensibility. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

sensibility

noun
sen·​si·​bil·​i·​ty ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce sensibility (audio)
plural sensibilities
1
: ability to receive sensations : sensitiveness
2
: response to a pleasurable or painful impression (as praise or criticism)
3
: the emotion or feeling of which a person is capable

Medical Definition

sensibility

noun
sen·​si·​bil·​i·​ty ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce sensibility (audio)
plural sensibilities
1
: ability to receive sensations
sensibility to pain
2
: awareness of and responsiveness toward something (as emotion in another)

More from Merriam-Webster on sensibility

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