Definition of sensual in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsen(t)SH(o͞o)əl/


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, carnal, bodily, fleshly, animal;
hedonistic, epicurean, sybaritic, voluptuary
sexually attractive, sexy, voluptuous, sultry, seductive, passionate;
sexually 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’ ( swimming is a beautiful, sensuous experience), while sensual relates to gratification of the senses, especially sexually ( a sensual massage). In fact, the word sensuous is thought to have been invented by John 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 Milton’s sense. While traditionalists struggle to maintain a distinction, the evidence 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: /ˈsen(t)SH(o͞o)əˌlizəm/
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: /ˈsen(t)SH(o͞o)əˌlīz/
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: /ˈsen(t)SH(o͞o)əlē/
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

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.