sensitivity

noun
sen·​si·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ ˌsen(t)-sə-ˈti-və-tē \
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

Uber conducted an internal investigation, formally reprimanded him in late 2017, reduced his bonus, and had him attend sensitivity training. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Uber vice president resigns after sexual misconduct allegations," 24 Oct. 2018 Few reporters wrote about war with more passion and sensitivity than Martha Gellhorn. Marvin Kalb, WSJ, "Five Best: Marvin Kalb on Memoirs of War Reporting," 11 Jan. 2019 Diminish fine lines and wrinkles with this new vegan retinol cream that fuses a blend of vitamin F and peptides to improve skin’s texture and sensitivity. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "13 New Beauty Products Worth the Hype in 2019," 9 Jan. 2019 There may be lingering pain, soreness, or sensitivity after a tattoo, which can feel similar to sunburn or a bruise. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "A Tattoo Artist's Guide to Your First Tattoo," 2 Jan. 2019 Ibrahin says the workers are asking to be treated humanely, calling on Amazon to display racial and cultural sensitivity. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "Muslim Amazon workers say they don’t have enough time to pray. Now they’re fighting for their rights.," 14 Dec. 2018 Jay and Cam’s less than politically correct coaching style earns them a class on sensitivity; Mitch runs into Phil’s nemesis at an unlikely place. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "TV Picks for Wednesday: ‘Christmas in Rockefeller Center’ on KING," 28 Nov. 2018 Studies show that filling your plate with veggies and nuts helps improve chronic inflammation and insulin sensitivity. Karen Asp, Woman's Day, "3 Ways to Lower Your Odds of Diabetes, According to Experts," 15 Nov. 2018 The hope is to pair up the neural network with high sensitivity detectors, allowing for a lightening-fast emergency warning. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Earth's Magnetic Fields Could Give Lightspeed Warning of Incoming Earthquakes and Tsunamis," 15 Oct. 2018

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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Last Updated

16 Feb 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 \

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 \
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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