Definition of sensual in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsɛnʃʊəl/


Of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical, especially sexual, pleasure: the production of the ballet is sensual and passionate
More example sentences
  • She introduced him to sensual and sexual pleasure, but her continued liaisons caused him pain.
  • She took an almost sensual pleasure in snow, rubbing her nose in it, eating it, tossing it in the air, dancing in it.
  • His films generally concern the cruel power of obsessional love and the need for sensual pleasure.
physical, physically gratifying, carnal, bodily, fleshly, animal;
hedonistic, epicurean, sybaritic, voluptuary, Dionysiac
rare appetitive
sexually attractive, sexy, voluptuous, sultry, seductive, passionate;
sexually exciting/arousing, erotic, sexual


The words sensual and sensuous are frequently used interchangeably to mean ‘gratifying the senses’, especially in a sexual sense. Strictly speaking, this goes against a traditional distinction, by which sensuous is a more neutral term, meaning ‘relating to the senses rather than the intellect’, as in swimming is a beautiful, sensuous experience, while sensual relates to gratification of the senses, especially sexually, as in a sensual massage. In fact the word sensuous is thought to have been invented by Milton (1641) in a deliberate attempt to avoid the sexual overtones of sensual. In practice, the connotations are such that it is difficult to use sensuous in this sense. While traditionalists struggle to maintain a distinction, the evidence from the Oxford English Corpus and elsewhere suggests that the ‘neutral’ use of sensuous is rare in modern English. If a neutral use is intended it is advisable to use alternative wording.



Pronunciation: /ˈsɛnʃʊəlɪz(ə)m/
Example sentences
  • Even in the Islam of the most ascetic desert Muslims there is a strand of sensualism: even renunciation is desired because of its immediate or eventual material bounty.
  • I love Whole Foods because it presents itself as a feast of sensualism, rather than dour vegetarianism or consumerism.
  • A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.


Pronunciation: /ˈsɛnʃʊəlʌɪz/
(also sensualise) verb
Example sentences
  • ‘Finally, we move to ‘perceptualized’ Internetworks, where the data has been sensualized, that is, rendered sensually.
  • Thus Kant summarized the famous dispute between Leibniz and Locke in the following way: Leibniz intellectualised appearances, just as Locke sensualised the concepts of the understanding.
  • Shot in black and white, it looks beautiful for a digital film. It does feel truly cinematic, with its sensualised New Zealand landscapes appearing sometimes in dim, dream-like light.


Pronunciation: /ˈsɛnʃʊəli/
Example sentences
  • They indulge themselves selfishly, sensually, with no thought of the consequences for us.
  • Fortunately, it is at times like this, that I'm glad I'm a rare househusband amid a sea of housewives - because when I felt someone sensually rubbing against the back of my leg, my mind filled with all sorts of delightful possibilities.
  • This time last year I was living a life centred on myself, on things that would give me instant gratification and were sensually pleasurable.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'sensory'): from late Latin sensualis, from sensus (see sense).

Words that rhyme with sensual


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sen|sual

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