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 Phelps has banned the Confederate flag and said that everyone in his organization will go through sensitivity and unconscious bias training. Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, "Commentary: NASCAR's Bubba Wallace is ready to move on from noose, Confederate flag," 28 June 2020 The court has pledged to sponsor scholarships and sensitivity training to boost diversity efforts in the industry, McCoy said. Washington Post, "The wine industry is overwhelmingly white. Now, the push for inclusivity is gaining momentum.," 26 June 2020 Investigators were unable to determine who tied it, but NASCAR promised the company would undergo sensitivity training as a result of the incident. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, "NASCAR releases image of 'noose' found in Bubba Wallace's garage," 25 June 2020 For more information on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, visit Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Job seekers need to show interest, not desperation," 19 June 2020 Police need more training on racial sensitivity and defensive tactics, more mental health screenings, better background checks and a full vetting of their social media profile to ensure officers don't have racial biases, Gillooly said. Fox News, "After years of union objections, police reform legislation advances," 16 June 2020 In 2018 Starbucks shut all its coffee shops in America to train workers on racial sensitivity after a national scandal arising from the ejection of black patrons from an outlet in Philadelphia. The Economist, "Business and race in America Bosses say they want to tackle racial injustice," 11 June 2020 Their studies include a lot of information about racial sensitivity and cultural competency,... Naomi Schaefer Riley, WSJ, "Are Social Workers the Answer?," 8 June 2020 Additional funding shouldn’t be poured into measures that aren’t working, like sensitivity training for police, said Lyndsey Mitchelson. Brian Myszkowski, USA TODAY, "Equality and justice for all: Protests, calls for reform and why Juneteenth matters now more than ever," 20 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for sensitivity

Time Traveler

The first known use of sensitivity was in 1773

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Statistics for sensitivity

Last Updated

5 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sensitivity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for sensitivity


How to pronounce sensitivity (audio)

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


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.


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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