1
: capable of sensing or feeling : conscious of or responsive to the sensations of seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling
sentient beings
Some among the group of potters … speak of the kiln as though it were sentient.Barry Lopez
But the really intriguing question is a hypothetical one. What would Google's response be if it realised that it actually had a sentient machine on its hands?John Naughton
But the terrible silence and emptiness seemed to symbolize her future—she felt as though the house, the street, the world were all empty, and she alone left sentient in a lifeless universe.Edith Wharton
2
: aware
sentient of the danger posed by the approaching hurricane
But the strange thing is that a boy so sentient of his surroundings should have been so insensible to the real world about him.W. A. White
3
: finely sensitive in perception or feeling
a sentient author with beautiful prose
As every sentient diplomat knows, diplomacy uses the reputation of power to achieve what power itself often cannot achieve, or can achieve only at greater and sometimes excessive cost.Colin L. Powell
sentiently adverb

Did you know?

You may have guessed that sentient has something to do with the senses. The initial spelling sent- or sens- is often a giveaway for such a meaning. A sentient being is one who perceives and responds to sensations of whatever kind—sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. Sentient ultimately comes from the Latin verb sentire, which means "to feel" or "to perceive," and is related to the noun sensus, meaning "sense." A few related English words are sentiment and sentimental, which have to do with emotions, sensual, which relates to more physical sensations, and the trio of assent, consent, and dissent, which involve one's expressions of agreement (or disagreement in the case of dissent) in thought and feeling with another.

Examples of sentient in a Sentence

sentient of the danger posed by the approaching hurricane
Recent Examples on the Web The first is a ballad of existential annihilation written from the perspective of a sentient Barbie. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2023 But much of Cameron’s storytelling has been devoted to warning against technology’s dark potential, starting with 1984’s The Terminator, in which an artificially intelligent defense network known as Skynet becomes sentient and starts a war between humans and machines. Rebecca Keegan, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Sep. 2023 There’s also a sentient announcement voice (Hal Liggett is the credited actor, though Ryan has hinted the name is a front for someone more famous) that seemingly reads their minds and talks back to them, directing them around the space and cutting the lights, forcing them together. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2023 There is a pink puffball with the ability to inhale objects as large as semi trucks and an intrepid explorer commanding an army of sentient plants. Zachary Small, New York Times, 17 Oct. 2023 Following her massive big-screen debut earlier this year, including an online war of words with Chucky, could the campy, sentient doll M3GAN potentially meet him on the home tuff of his TV series? Hunter Ingram, Variety, 25 Oct. 2023 Here are potential answers in books by 10 science-fiction writers who envision sentient machines that fulfill human desires, topple governments, disrupt economies, save humanity and, maybe, replace it. Matt Wirz, WSJ, 8 Oct. 2023 Last year, after an independent report concluded that cephalopods and crustaceans have the capacity to feel pain and distress, the United Kingdom passed an amendment recognizing them as sentient beings. Emily Mullin, WIRED, 6 Oct. 2023 Natural beekeepers often speak of the hive in somewhat spiritual tones, as a single, sentient organism that has evolved in parallel to mammals like us. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 21 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Latin sentient-, sentiens, present participle of sentire to perceive, feel

First Known Use

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sentient was in 1604

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Dictionary Entries Near sentient

Cite this Entry

“Sentient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition

sentient

adjective
sen·​tient ˈsen-ch(ē-)ənt How to pronounce sentient (audio)
1
: capable of sensing or feeling
sentient beings
2
: aware
sentient of one's surroundings

Medical Definition

sentient

adjective
: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions
sentiently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on sentient

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