sen·​su·​al ˈsen(t)-sh(ə-)wəl How to pronounce sensual (audio)
: relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite : fleshly
: devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites
: deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests : worldly
especially : irreligious
ˈsen(t)-sh(ə-)wə-lē How to pronounce sensual (audio)
Choose the Right Synonym for sensual

carnal, fleshly, sensual, animal mean having a relation to the body.

carnal may mean only this but more often connotes derogatorily an action or manifestation of a person's lower nature.

gave in to carnal desires

fleshly is less derogatory than carnal.

a saint who had experienced fleshly temptations

sensual may apply to any gratification of a bodily desire or pleasure but commonly implies sexual appetite with absence of the spiritual or intellectual.

fleshpots providing sensual delights

animal stresses the physical as distinguished from the rational nature of a person.

led a mindless animal existence

sensuous, sensual, luxurious, voluptuous mean relating to or providing pleasure through gratification of the senses.

sensuous implies gratification of the senses for the sake of aesthetic pleasure.

the sensuous delights of great music

sensual tends to imply the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of the physical appetites as ends in themselves.

a life devoted to sensual pleasures

luxurious suggests the indulgence of sensuous pleasure inducing bodily ease and languor.

a luxurious hotel

voluptuous implies more strongly an abandonment especially to sensual pleasure.

a voluptuous feast

Examples of sensual in a Sentence

A sharp observer with a pleasing eye for sensual detail, Jaffrey weaves a richly textured story in which she effortlessly mingles quotidian dramas with historic events including the partition of India. Michelle Green, People, 6 Nov. 2006
And Rousseau, in his Confessions, wrote of the sensual pleasure he found in simple meals of peasant cheeses and breads. Andrea Lee, Gourmet, May 2004
Certain fragrances apparently heighten sensual experiences. the sensual feel of a velvet shirt against the skin
Recent Examples on the Web This fragrance is truly so sensual and and yummy, the perfect gender neutral smell. Andrea Navarro, Glamour, 12 Sep. 2023 Sandalwood can ground a fragrance into something elegant, sensual and way more wearable. Garrett Munce, Men's Health, 3 Sep. 2023 The feeling is militantly decadent and aggressively sensual, but the word that claws to the top of the pile is obsessive: a relentless, exacting pursuit of opulence. Josh Condon, Robb Report, 3 Sep. 2023 Against this spirit of sensual and sensory richness, experimental pop artist Jerskin Fendrix’s gnawing, atonal score — mirroring Bella’s switching fixations by doggedly stressing one instrument at a time — stands out for its severity. Guy Lodge, Variety, 1 Sep. 2023 Sensible and sensual, the zodiac’s luxury-loving Bull reminds us to enjoy earthly pleasures without losing sight of practical needs, like, say, having money to pay November’s rent. The Astrotwins, ELLE, 1 Sep. 2023 Smith’s vision was to transform the West Village duplex with touches that are minimal but warm, streamlined yet sensual. ELLE Decor, 16 Aug. 2023 The essential underwear line’s campaign perfectly reflects the brand’s energy of minimal, modern, and sensual. Kerane Marcellus, Essence, 14 Aug. 2023 As the album title may have pointed to, the track is a sensual Afrobeats cut with bachata undertones that accompany lyrics about meeting and falling for a beautiful girl at a party. Leila Cobo, Billboard, 14 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Late Latin sensualis, from Latin sensus sense

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sensual was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near sensual

Cite this Entry

“Sensual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


sen·​su·​al ˈsench-(ə-)wəl How to pronounce sensual (audio)
: relating to or consisting in the pleasing of the senses
: devoted to the pleasures of the senses
sensuality noun
ˈsench-(ə-)wə-lē How to pronounce sensual (audio)

Medical Definition


: relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite
: devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites

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