sensitivity

noun
sen·​si·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈti-və-tē How to pronounce sensitivity (audio) \
plural sensitivities

Definition of sensitivity

: the quality or state of being sensitive: such as
a : the capacity of an organism or sense organ to respond to stimulation : irritability
b : the quality or state of being hypersensitive
c : the degree to which a radio receiving set responds to incoming waves
d : the capacity of being easily hurt
e : awareness of the needs and emotions of others a book written with just the right mix of empathy and sensitivity— L. C. Brown

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Do you have acuity or sensitivity?

Acuity is nearly synonymous with at least one sense of sensitivity, yet, as is so often the case with closely-related words, there are subtle differences worth observing before you substitute one of these words for the other. Acuity does refer to a form of sensitivity, but it is most often applied to the perceptual senses (as in “visual acuity” or “auditory acuity”). It is also frequently used in reference to the intellect (as in “mental acuity”). Sensitivity has a broader range of meanings than acuity does, including “the capacity of being easily hurt.” It may be used of inanimate objects such as radios (“the sensitivity of the instruments was carefully calibrated”), a context in which acuity is unusual.

Examples of sensitivity in a Sentence

I was surprised by her extreme sensitivity about even the smallest suggestions that we made. This is a matter of great political sensitivity. He handled the situation with great sensitivity. Her decision shows a lack of sensitivity. I would have appreciated a little more sensitivity from you.
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Recent Examples on the Web

After the euro and migrant crises, and amid debates about liberal democracy, regional sensitivities are more raw. Charlemagne | Brussels, The Economist, "The EU is struggling to agree on candidates for its biggest jobs," 1 July 2019 The political sensitivities over the events in Hong Kong were evident as Chinese authorities worked around the clock to keep most of the mainland in the dark about the demonstrations. Keith Bradsher, BostonGlobe.com, "China backs Hong Kong’s leader despite huge protests," 17 June 2019 Washington's sensitivity is changing because policymakers have seen how even the acquisitions of small companies can contribute to a large tech company's power. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Will Washington's antitrust moment hurt deals in Silicon Valley? Google is an early test.," 7 June 2019 Blackface is never ok and cultural sensitivity should always be at the forefront this time of year. Mekita Rivas, Teen Vogue, "An Athletics Club Has Apologized for Players Who Wore Blackface to Dress Up Like Serena Williams," 20 Sep. 2018 Losses and sensitivities warrant extra caution, especially if the child struggles to manage their emotions or has a hard time reaching out for support. Washington Post, "When death goes to the movies: How to help kids cope with the scary stuff," 2 July 2019 The page contained press releases that satirized the Department’s racial sensitivity and civil rights practices. Jack Greiner, Cincinnati.com, "Strictly Legal: Ohio police department's inability to take a joke may cost it.," 2 July 2019 Also review the label for the specific products’ sensitivity to high temperatures, as some may be more sensitive than others. Calvin Finch, ExpressNews.com, "How to control weeds in your summer lawn and garden," 28 June 2019 Fusco also stresses the importance of knowing your skin type and sensitivity. Audrey Noble, Harper's BAZAAR, "What is a Glycolic Acid Peel?," 27 June 2019

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

1773, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for sensitivity

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sensitivity

The first known use of sensitivity was in 1773

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More Definitions for sensitivity

sensitivity

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sensitivity

: the tendency to become upset about things that are done to you, are said about you, or relate to you
: the tendency to cause people to be upset
: an awareness and understanding of the feelings of other people

sensitivity

noun
sen·​si·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ ˌsen-sə-ˈti-və-tē How to pronounce sensitivity (audio) \

Kids Definition of sensitivity

1 : an awareness and understanding of the feelings of others
2 : the ability to express thoughts and feelings She sings with great sensitivity.

sensitivity

noun
sen·​si·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈtiv-ət-ē How to pronounce sensitivity (audio) \
plural sensitivities

Medical Definition of sensitivity

: the quality or state of being sensitive: as
a : the capacity of an organism or sense organ to respond to stimulation : irritability
b : the quality or state of being hypersensitive

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Comments on sensitivity

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