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 phone, available in the U.S. in mirror black or mirror purple, can be unlocked via a fingerprint sensor or by recognizing your face – both worked fine. Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY, "Galaxy Z Flip review: 24 hours with Samsung's new foldable phone," 17 Feb. 2020 That’s the case for Swarm Technologies, a San Francisco satellite start-up whose two founders journeyed over three days to remote McMurdo Station in November to install a ground antenna for a space network designed for Internet of Things sensors. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Silicon Valley satellite startup installs ground station in Antarctica," 11 Feb. 2020 Given its lack of sensors, we were shocked at the sophisticated control of the system and its ability to center the car in its lane, both on and off the highway. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, "Is a $1000 Aftermarket Add-On as Capable as Tesla's Autopilot and Cadillac's Super Cruise?," 10 Feb. 2020 Research planes also intercepted six storms in 2018 and six more in 2019, dropping dozens of weather sensors each year. Peter Fimrite,, "To study atmospheric rivers, scientists need to get close. So they fly to them," 5 Feb. 2020 Also, Loop 303 will be closed between Bell Road and Grand Avenue in Surprise for installation of traffic-flow sensors as part of a freeway technology project. Mike Cruz, azcentral, "Weekend traffic: Portion of I-17 to close at Pinnacle Peak Road," 24 Jan. 2020 The company uses a combination of sensors on roads, artificial intelligence, and computers in cars to notify drivers of potential hazards. Kate Pisa, CNN, "Can smart sensor systems anticipate and avoid danger?," 21 Jan. 2020 To navigate a city, Prime Air drones will be outfitted with a suite of visual, thermal, and ultrasonic sensors. Jake Bittle, Harper's magazine, "The Birds," 20 Jan. 2020 Muzzle-velocity testing was done at Federal’s factory through a coil of inductance sensors with a 30-inch test barrel under SAAMI specifications. Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life, "5 Top Custom Shotshells That Are Better Than Steel," 8 Jan. 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

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sensor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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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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