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

Such an impression is particularly risky ahead of tough upcoming decisions over public spending, which have been delayed because of their political sensitivity. The Economist, "Emmanuel Macron’s popularity hits a new low," 12 July 2018 Narwhals and beluga whales could be especially vulnerable because of their exposure to ships and their sensitivity to disturbances, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Adam Aton, Scientific American, "Ships Threaten Arctic Marine Mammals," 3 July 2018 Or that your sensitivity will get scapegoated or exploited by less feeling types? Bess Matassa, Teen Vogue, "Weekly Horoscopes July 2-8," 29 June 2018 Owning your sensitivities, being aware of them, and figuring out where to go from there. Chris Payne, Billboard, "Slothrust Announce New Album, Premiere Fuzzy Grunge-Pop Track 'Peach': Exclusive," 28 June 2018 The telescope could still function, but its sensitivity was hobbled. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "Puerto Rico's Observatory Is Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria," 15 June 2018 In its sensitivity to the violent contradictory impulses within each scene, Kyri's Hamlet is a triumph. Max Maller, Chicago Reader, "Daniel Kyri turns in a triumphant performance in the Gift's Hamlet," 13 June 2018 Rodriguez breeds devotion not only with the extraordinary, yet understated cut and fit of his dresses, but also with his sensitivity. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Love Letters for Narciso: Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, and More Pen Odes to the Beloved Designer," 29 May 2018 Fox’s skill as a storyteller has long rested on her sensitivity and her gift for drawing out other people’s personal narratives. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Tale Is a Searing Investigation of Past Abuse," 25 May 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

14 Sep 2018

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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