sen·​sor | \ ˈsen-ˌsȯr How to pronounce sensor (audio) , ˈsen(t)-sər \

Definition of sensor

1 : a device that responds to a physical stimulus (such as heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism, or a particular motion) and transmits a resulting impulse (as for measurement or operating a control)

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Synonyms for sensor


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Sensors are used today almost everywhere. Radar guns bounce microwaves off moving cars. A burglar alarm may use a photosensor to detect when a beam of light has been broken, or may use ultrasonic sound waves that bounce off moving objects. Still other sensors may detect pressure (barometers) or chemicals (Breathalyzers and smoke detectors). Stud finders, used by carpenters to locate wooden studs under a wall, may employ magnets or radar. Wired gloves, which relay information about the position of the fingers, are used in virtual-reality environments. A cheap car alarm may be nothing but a shock sensor, in which a strong vibration will cause two metal surfaces to come together.

Examples of sensor in a Sentence

Image sensors are used in digital cameras. Infrared sensors can track an object's movement.
Recent Examples on the Web The crashes were found to have been caused by software designed to smooth the planes’ handling that, acting on faulty sensor data, instead led them into dives from which pilots were unable to recover. Washington Post, "Two years after deadly crashes, Boeing’s 737 Max returns to commercial service in the U.S.," 29 Dec. 2020 Any Android user who opts in to the program can become the owner of one tiny sensor in the world’s largest earthquake detection system. Sara Chodosh And Andrew Rosenblum, Popular Science, "The wildest engineering innovations of 2020," 3 Dec. 2020 The development of the additional sensor will take up to 24 months and will lead to even higher safety levels, said Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. Anurag Kotoky,, "Pilot’s Mother Criticizes FAA, Boeing for Rushing Max Return," 19 Nov. 2020 Faulty sensor data led to a series of events that caused pilots of an Ethiopian Airlines to lose control of the airplane before a fatal crash, according to a preliminary report. Chicago Tribune Wire Reports,, "Timeline: Boeing 737 Max jetliner crashes and aftermath," 18 Nov. 2020 Windows Hello is found on the keyboard in the form of a fingerprint sensor. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "Surface Laptop Go impresses with a sleek surface and meets the mark with performance," 11 Nov. 2020 Software algorithms integrate this digital map with sensor data and digital representations of objects and people to create a digital world that can be observed, quantified and manipulated and that can also manipulate the real world. Corinna E. Lathan, Scientific American, "Spatial Computing Could Be the Next Big Thing," 10 Nov. 2020 Running a large-scale taxi service in even one metro area will give Waymo a wealth of sensor data and operational experience that will inform the company's efforts to tackle other regions. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Waymo finally launches an actual public, driverless taxi service," 8 Oct. 2020 Companies like NumberEight, or competitors Sentiance and Neura, use sensor data to categorize users. Sidney Fussell, Wired, "Companies Can Track Your Phone’s Movements to Target Ads," 18 Sep. 2020

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

circa 1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sensor

Latin sentire to perceive + English -or entry 1 — more at sense

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Time Traveler for sensor

Time Traveler

The first known use of sensor was circa 1928

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Statistics for sensor

Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sensor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for sensor


How to pronounce sensor (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sensor

: a device that detects or senses heat, light, sound, motion, etc., and then reacts to it in a particular way


sen·​sor | \ ˈsen-ˌsȯ(ə)r How to pronounce sensor (audio) , ˈsen(t)-sər How to pronounce sensor (audio) \

Medical Definition of sensor

: a device that responds to a physical stimulus (as heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism, or a particular motion) and transmits a resulting impulse (as for measurement or operating a control) also : sense organ

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