sen·​si·​tive | \ˈsen(t)-sə-tiv, ˈsen(t)s-təv\

Definition of sensitive 

(Entry 1 of 2)

2a : receptive to sense impressions

b : capable of being stimulated or excited by external agents (such as light, gravity, or contact) sensitive cells

3 : highly responsive or susceptible: such as

a(1) : easily hurt or damaged especially : easily hurt emotionally

(2) : delicately aware of the attitudes and feelings of others

b : excessively or abnormally susceptible : hypersensitive sensitive to egg protein

c : readily fluctuating in price or demand sensitive commodities

d : capable of indicating minute differences : delicate sensitive scales

e : readily affected or changed by various agents (such as light or mechanical shock) a photographic emulsion sensitive to red light

f : highly radiosensitive

4a : concerned with highly classified government information or involving discretionary authority over important policy matters sensitive documents

b : calling for tact, care, or caution in treatment : touchy a sensitive issue like race relations

5 : having or showing concern for a specified matter usually used in combination a price-sensitive customerenvironmentally sensitive policies



Definition of sensitive (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person having occult or psychical abilities

2 : a sensitive person

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Other Words from sensitive


sensitively adverb
sensitiveness noun

Synonyms for sensitive

Synonyms: Adjective

acute, delicate, fine, keen, perceptive, quick, sharp

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Choose the Right Synonym for sensitive


liable, open, exposed, subject, prone, susceptible, sensitive mean being by nature or through circumstances likely to experience something adverse. liable implies a possibility or probability of incurring something because of position, nature, or particular situation. liable to get lost open stresses a lack of barriers preventing incurrence. a claim open to question exposed suggests lack of protection or powers of resistance against something actually present or threatening. exposed to infection subject implies an openness for any reason to something that must be suffered or undergone. all reports are subject to review prone stresses natural tendency or propensity to incur something. prone to delay susceptible implies conditions existing in one's nature or individual constitution that make incurrence probable. very susceptible to flattery sensitive implies a readiness to respond to or be influenced by forces or stimuli. unduly sensitive to criticism

Examples of sensitive in a Sentence


He acts like a tough guy, but he's really very sensitive to criticism. I found him to be a sensitive and caring person.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive foreign policy issue. Maria Danilova, The Seattle Times, "US makes case for withdrawal from missile treaty with Russia," 27 Nov. 2018 Our eyes have evolved to be exquisitely sensitive to these photons. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 Your bod has various erogenous zones, which are areas of your body that are more sensitive than others. Yerin Kim, Seventeen, "15 Things Every Girl Needs to Know About Masturbation," 10 Sep. 2018 Crocker spokeswoman Christine Calvin said the gallery would likely be large enough to draw visitors on its own and would likely house ceramics and other artwork that tends to not be environmentally sensitive. Ryan Lillis, sacbee, "Crocker Art Museum is expanding with this $40 million plan," 12 July 2018 The more sensitive the base is, the more interesting the weapons and tactics that protect it. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "B-52 Bombers Could Quadruple Their Wing Bomb Loads," 25 June 2018 But such a step at this point, could be too politically sensitive for the U.S. to take, said Scott R. Anderson, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "Lawmakers Seek Tougher U.S. Sanctions Over Khashoggi Killing," 15 Nov. 2018 And always use a shaving cream made for sensitive skin when dealing with ingrown-prone skin. Loni Venti, Teen Vogue, "How To Get Rid of Ingrown Hair: 9 Tips to Heal Your Skin," 5 Oct. 2018 The most obvious hurdle is that installing light-sensitive proteins into cells requires genetic engineering. Justin Chen, STAT, "Pulses of light restored hearing in gerbils. Could that lead to higher-tech cochlear implants?," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Quiet Zone is a place where mystic scientists, gun-loving locals, and electromagnetic hyper-sensitives all live amongst one another, and Drake Equation chronicles their lives in rich detail. Laura Mallonee, WIRED, "Want to Hunt Aliens? Go to West Virginia's Low-Tech 'Quiet Zone'," 3 May 2018 Growing sensitives over language extend to politics as well. Michael Holtz, The Christian Science Monitor, "Amid anniversary protests, fears that Hong Kong is 'just another mainland city'," 3 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sensitive.' 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 sensitive


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1807, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for sensitive


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin sensitivus, probably alteration of sensativus, from sensatus sensate

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Statistics for sensitive

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for sensitive

The first known use of sensitive was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for sensitive



English Language Learners Definition of sensitive

: easily upset by the things that people think or say about you

: likely to cause people to become upset

: aware of and understanding the feelings of other people


sen·​si·​tive | \ˈsen-sə-tiv \

Kids Definition of sensitive

1 : easily or strongly affected, impressed, or hurt a sensitive child

2 : likely to affect, impress, or hurt a sensitive topic

3 : understanding of the feelings of others

4 : capable of responding to stimulation sensitive structures of the ear

5 : readily affected or changed often in an unpleasant or negative way I have sensitive skin.

Other Words from sensitive

sensitively adverb


sen·​si·​tive | \ˈsen(t)-sət-iv, ˈsen(t)-stiv \

Medical Definition of sensitive 

1 : sensory sense 2 sensitive nerves

2a : receptive to sense impressions

b : capable of being stimulated or excited by external agents (as light, gravity, or contact) a photographic emulsion sensitive to red light sensitive protoplasm

3 : highly responsive or susceptible: as

a : easily hurt or damaged sensitive skin especially : easily hurt emotionally

b : excessively or abnormally susceptible : hypersensitive sensitive to egg protein

c : capable of indicating minute differences sensitive scales

d : readily affected or changed by various agents (as light or mechanical shock) a sensitive colloid

Other Words from sensitive

sensitiveness noun

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