tac·​tile ˈtak-tᵊl How to pronounce tactile (audio)
: perceptible by touch : tangible
: of, relating to, or being the sense of touch
ˈtak-tə-lē How to pronounce tactile (audio)

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Reach Out and Touch the Meaning of Tactile

Tactile has many relatives in English, from the oft-synonymous tangible to familiar words like intact, tact, tangent, contingent, and even entire. All of these can be traced back to the Latin verb tangere, meaning “to touch.” Tactile was adopted by English speakers in the early 1600s (possibly by way of the French tactile) from the Latin adjective tactilis (“tangible”). In light of tactile having tangere for a touchstone, its dual senses of “perceptible by touch” and “of, relating to, or being the sense of touch” are perfectly sensible. Since the advent of film, television, and, ahem, touchscreens, a new sense also appears to be developing, as tactile is increasingly used to suggest that something visual is particularly evocative or suggestive of a certain texture.

Examples of tactile in a Sentence

He not only had visual difficulties but tactile ones, too—witness his grasping his wife's head and mistaking it for a hat … Oliver Sacks, New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2002
There is a tactile and therefore somatic dimension to stroking the chalk that keeps the artist in constant, responsible and responsive touch with his emerging creation. Jed Perl, New Republic, 17 June 2002
The keyboard has good tactile feedback, and the touch pad is responsive without being too twitchy. Bruce Brown, PC Magazine, 20 Feb. 2001
… nothing prepared me for the tactile reality of the original volumes, leaf after carefully written leaf over which his hand had travelled … Edmund Morris, New Yorker, 16 Jan. 1995
Near midday the heat of the sun bounced up from the bare patches of soil to hit with an almost tactile force. Edward O. Wilson, Smithsonian, October 1984
The thick brushstrokes give the painting a tactile quality.
Recent Examples on the Web The tactile buttons ensure all controls are easy to use, as well. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 21 May 2024 Geminis may also utilize their skill sets in more tactile professions, such as painting or sculpting. Nicole Briese, Peoplemag, 20 May 2024 Your fingers are drawn to brush along every surface, called by the tactile nature of the materials. Stacey Wreathall and Dafydd Gwyon, Travel + Leisure, 15 May 2024 One of the coolest new features of this hand is the tactile sensing. IEEE Spectrum, 10 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for tactile 

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

Word History


French or Latin; French, from Latin tactilis, from tangere to touch — more at tangent entry 2

First Known Use

1615, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tactile was in 1615


Dictionary Entries Near tactile

Cite this Entry

“Tactile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tactile. Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


tac·​tile ˈtak-tᵊl How to pronounce tactile (audio)
: of, relating to, or used in the sense of touch

from French tactile or Latin tactilis, both meaning "capable of being touched or felt," from Latin tangere "to touch" — related to tangent, tangible

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
tac·​tile ˈtak-tᵊl How to pronounce tactile (audio) -ˌtīl How to pronounce tactile (audio)
: of, relating to, mediated by, or affecting the sense of touch
tactile sensations
tactile stimuli
tactile anesthesia
: having or being organs or receptors for the sense of touch
tactilely adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a person whose prevailing mental imagery is tactile rather than visual, auditory, or motor compare audile entry 1, motile entry 2, visualizer
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