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 President Biden also showed some sensitivity to the changing dynamics in his party., 10 June 2021 The most common issue was noise sensitivity—especially to things like fireworks or thunder—affecting nearly a third of the dogs in the study. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Mar. 2020 It is influenced by factors such as eye contact, smiling, body language, and topics of conversation of varying sensitivity. Quora, Forbes, 17 May 2021 Monster movies, as a general rule, don’t aspire to this level of sensitivity. Jason Kehe, Wired, 10 May 2021 The game was rescheduled from the previous night, out of sensitivity to the community following the traffic-stop death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Dave Campbell, ajc, 14 Apr. 2021 The teaming is seen as lending support to the trio which has been on the defensive this year on questions of racial sensitivity. Paul Grein, Billboard, 29 Oct. 2020 Some bills would forbid racial and cultural sensitivity training for school officials and withhold state funds from schools with such programs. al, 12 May 2021 President Trump opposed the teaching of the 1619 Project in schools and banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to critical race theory. Faith Karimi, CNN, 6 May 2021

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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Learn More About sensitivity

Time Traveler for sensitivity

Time Traveler

The first known use of sensitivity was in 1773

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Statistics for sensitivity

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sensitivity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for sensitivity



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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