sen·​sor ˈsen-ˌsȯr How to pronounce sensor (audio)
: 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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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 And for those who love a bit of control, it’s got a light sensor that adjusts brightness based on your room’s vibe. Claire Rutter, Rolling Stone, 1 Dec. 2023 In this case, the leading indicators may look quite different: • The alarm is installed in all of the locations in your house, so nobody can move through your house without being notified by the alarm sensors. Laura Bell Main, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 If your prosthetic is slipping around due to sweat, those sensors might end up unaligned with their intended placements, compromising your function. Chloé Valentine Toscano, Allure, 30 Nov. 2023 Fiber optic sensors are multifunctional, so they can be installed and used for any number of purposes, detecting cicadas one day and some other disturbance the next. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 30 Nov. 2023 There are a few things missing here, including sensors for auto-pause and multi-band EQ. Louryn Strampe, WIRED, 27 Nov. 2023 All computation and rendering, aside from some sensor data, is handled by a connected PC. IEEE Spectrum, 27 Nov. 2023 Keep your home safe with deals on security tech like a Ring video doorbell, motion sensor outdoor lights, and a wireless camera to keep an eye on your pet. Allison Faccenda, Better Homes & Gardens, 24 Nov. 2023 The straightener’s smart heat sensor adapts to your hair type so there’s overall less hair spillage on the sides of the plates and no flyaway hairs. Deanna Pai, Glamour, 21 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sensor.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sensor was circa 1928

Dictionary Entries Near sensor

Cite this Entry

“Sensor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


sen·​sor ˈsen-ˌsȯ(ə)r How to pronounce sensor (audio)
: a device that detects a physical quantity (as a movement or a beam of light) and responds by transmitting a signal

Medical Definition


: 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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