sen·​sor | \ˈsen-ˌsȯr, 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

On April 19th, Marine F-35B fighters from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211—the same squadron that last month conducted the F-35’s first combat mission—located targets on the ground using their aircraft sensors. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "F-35, Ground Rocket Launcher Team Up to Destroy Target with Pinpoint Accuracy," 8 Oct. 2018 Although the Mavic 2 Pro has 20-megapixel images, the Zoom takes good advantage of its 12-megapixel sensor with a new mode called super-resolution. Vjeran Pavic, The Verge, "DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom take drone photography to new heights," 6 Sep. 2018 When its sensors are clogged with repellent, a mosquito is fooled into looking elsewhere for its blood meal. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, "Only female mosquitoes bother us (and other facts about the insects Alaskans love to hate)," 7 July 2018 In September, the company announced a partnership that placed its sensors into self-driving cars being used at the Toyota Research Institute. Marco Santana,, "Former Fitbit, Apple executives join Orlando autonomous car tech company," 28 June 2018 Their sensors record all the materials used in each area of the farm, and send the data to farmer’s P&L, which runs on the Syngenta’s FMS software. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "This Agriculture Giant Is Bringing in the Drones to Modernize Farming From Cornfields to Vineyards," 19 June 2018 Seismologists in Chile also shared on social media that their sensors also detected an artificial temblor, according to USA Today. Maria Pasquini,, "So Shook: Earthquake Sensors Set Off by Thrilled World Cup Fans After Mexico's Victory," 18 June 2018 The biggest player in this space, Velodyne (which made the first lidar specifically for driving in 2005), sells its most capable sensor for $75,000. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Volvo Finds the Lidar Its Needs to Build Self-Driving Cars," 14 June 2018 The scene will certainly trigger your exposition sensors in the moment, but without it, the ending would make very little sense! Yohana Desta, HWD, "Let’s Talk about Hereditary’s Insane Ending," 8 June 2018

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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Statistics for sensor

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for sensor

The first known use of sensor was circa 1928

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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, ˈsen(t)-sər \

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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