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[sen-si-tiv] /ˈsɛn sɪ tɪv/
endowed with sensation; having perception through the senses.
readily or excessively affected by external agencies or influences.
having acute mental or emotional sensibility; aware of and responsive to the feelings of others.
easily pained, annoyed, etc.
pertaining to or connected with the senses or sensation.
Physiology. having a low threshold of sensation or feeling.
responding to stimuli, as leaves that move when touched.
highly responsive to certain agents, as photographic plates, films, or paper.
affected or likely to be affected by a specified stimulus (used in combination):
price-sensitive markets.
involving work, duties, or information of a highly secret or delicate nature, especially in government:
a sensitive position in the State Department.
requiring tact or caution; delicate; touchy:
a sensitive topic.
constructed to indicate, measure, or be affected by small amounts or changes, as a balance or thermometer.
Radio. easily affected by external influences, especially by radio waves.
a person who is sensitive.
a person with psychic powers; medium.
Origin of sensitive
1350-1400; < Medieval Latin sēnsitīvus, irregular formation on Latin sēns-, past participle stem of sentīre to sense (see -ive); replacing Middle English sensitif(e) < Middle French sensitif, sensitive < Medieval Latin, as above
Related forms
sensitively, adverb
nonsensitive, adjective
nonsensitively, adverb
nonsensitiveness, noun
ultrasensitive, adjective
ultrasensitively, adverb
unsensitive, adjective
unsensitively, adverb
unsensitiveness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sensitive
  • Copper is less sensitive to the ups and downs of rich-world economies than it was, however.
  • Politicians sometimes disclose sensitive information by mistake.
  • And the information, once gathered, will be militarily sensitive.
  • Consumers are not sensitive to interest rates when they plan daily consumption.
  • sensitive dates have often been catalysts for renewed trouble.
  • The government often tries to rein them in during crises by blocking the use of sensitive keywords.
  • Tuition fees are sensitive for the coalition government.
  • With endless elections and permanent campaigns, it is exquisitely sensitive to voters' wants.
  • Both moves dented commercial confidence at sensitive moments.
  • They were both bright and sensitive artists, living simultaneously, two ways of life.
British Dictionary definitions for sensitive


having the power of sensation
responsive to or aware of feelings, moods, reactions, etc
easily irritated; delicate: sensitive skin
affected by external conditions or stimuli
easily offended
of or relating to the senses or the power of sensation
capable of registering small differences or changes in amounts, quality, etc: a sensitive instrument
(photog) having a high sensitivity: a sensitive emulsion
connected with matters affecting national security, esp through access to classified information
(of a stock market or prices) quickly responsive to external influences and thus fluctuating or tending to fluctuate
Derived Forms
sensitively, adverb
sensitiveness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin sēnsitīvus, from Latin sentīre to feel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sensitive

late 14c., in reference to the body or its parts, "having the function of sensation;" also (early 15c.) "pertaining to the faculty of the soul that receives and analyzes sensory information;" from Old French sensitif "capable of feeling" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin sensitivus "capable of sensation," from Latin sensus, past participle of sentire "feel perceive" (see sense (n.)).

Meaning "easily affected" (with reference to mental feelings) first recorded 1816; meaning "having intense physical sensation" is from 1849. Original meaning is preserved in sensitive plant (1630s), which is "mechanically irritable in a higher degree than almost any other plant" [Century Dictionary]. Meaning "involving national security" is recorded from 1953. Related: Sensitively; sensitiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sensitive in Medicine

sensitive sen·si·tive (sěn'sĭ-tĭv)

  1. Capable of perceiving with a sense or senses.

  2. Responsive to a stimulus.

  3. Susceptible to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of others.

  4. Easily irritated or inflamed, especially due to previous exposure to an antigen.

  5. Relating to, or characterizing a sensitized antigen.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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