The Meaning of Sensual: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been curious about the definition of sensual? This guide will provide you with all of the information you need on the word sensual, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word sensual mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, Vocabulary, and Dictionary, the word sensual is an adjective that refers to something that relates to the gratification of the senses or indulgence of the appetite. This term is often used sexually and relating to something voluptuous or sexy. While it is not exclusively sexual in meaning, this is the most common connotation, so one should be careful when using it because of its suggestion of lewdness. 

One related word, sensuous, refers to something that appeases the five senses but does not have the sexual connotation that sensual does. If you would like to refer to something that is pleasing to the senses but you do not want it to have a sexual connotation, the word sensuous might be a better way to go!

The word sensual also exists in many other languages. You may notice that some of these are very similar to the word sensual, because they have similar origins. Sensual is a word that is Latin in origin, as are many other languages, so they will often have similar roots and therefore similar words. This list of translations for the word sensual is provided by Word Sense.

  • Czech: smyslný‎ (masc.)
  • Italian: sensuale‎
  • Japanese: 官能的‎ (かんのうてき, kannōteki)
  • Finnish: sensuelli‎
  • Turkish: sensüel‎
  • Indonesian: sensual‎
  • Serbo-Croatian: sȅnzūalan‎, pȕten‎, čȗlan‎
  • French: sensuel‎, voluptueux‎
  • Vietnamese: xác thịt‎, nhục dục‎
  • Welsh: cnawdol‎
  • German: sinnlich‎, lustvoll‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: feòlmhor‎, collaidh‎
  • Catalan: sensual‎

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word sensual?

There are many different words that mean the same thing as the word sensual, which are called synonyms. Synonyms and words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary or if you want to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word sensual is provided by Thesaurus.

  • arousing
  • pleasing
  • sexy
  • hedonic
  • hot
  • delightful
  • animal
  • debauched
  • rough
  • lascivious
  • voluptuous
  • heavy
  • X-rated
  • libidinous
  • physical
  • sharpened
  • unchaste
  • exciting
  • sensuous
  • carnal
  • lustful
  • epicurean
  • steamy
  • lecherous
  • stimulating
  • fleshly
  • licentious
  • stirring
  • unspiritual
  • tactile
  • erotic
  • bodily
  • moving
  • sexual
  • sultry
  • animalistic
  • lewd

There are also many words and phrases that mean the opposite of the word sensual. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know in order to expand your knowledge of the English language and to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word sensual is also provided by Thesaurus

  • subdued
  • immaculate
  • restrained
  • virtuous
  • undefiled
  • prudish
  • modest
  • pure
  • vestal
  • wholesome
  • innocent
  • platonic
  • impotent
  • continent
  • proper
  • decent
  • austere
  • unwed
  • controlled
  • refined
  • uncontaminated
  • uncorrupt
  • quiet
  • elegant
  • virginal
  • neat
  • spotless
  • simple
  • clean
  • decorous
  • moral
  • intemerate
  • unblemished
  • chaste
  • monogamous
  • unstained
  • unaffected
  • stainless
  • inexperienced
  • unsullied
  • celibate

What is the origin of the word sensual?

According to Etymonline, the word sensual has been used as an adjective since the early 15th century to mean carnal or unspiritual. It has been used since the mid-15th century to refer to things that pertain to the senses. The word sensual comes from the Old French sensuel which has been used since the 15th century. This comes directly from the Late Latin sensualis meaning endowed with feeling. This word has been used to mean lewd or unchaste since the late 15th century. Related words to sensual include sensuality, sensualism, sensually, sensuous, sensualize, sensualness, and sensualist.

How can the word sensual be used in a sentence?

The word sensual can be used in many different ways to describe experiences that are pleasing to the physical senses. This word is almost always sexual in connotation. In this first example, Ellie is talking to Shana about what she did on Valentine’s Day.

Ellie: Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! What did you and Ben do to celebrate?

Shana: Oh, thanks! We went out for dinner. Oysters, wine, you know. Sensual excesses and such. How about you?

Ellie: Fun! I stayed at home, but definitely had some sensual delights of my own. Laid in my bed, ate sushi, and watched my favorite movie. I decided to make myself my own Valentine!

Shana: I love that!

In this example, Shana and Ellie both use the word sensual to refer to things that are pleasing to the physical senses. In this case, both of them were talking about food that is considered an aphrodisiac. The word sensual can also refer to a great number of things, including people, wardrobe, and more. Someone could even describe someone’s lips as a sensual mouth. In the next example, Ellie is trying on a dress for a first date. Shana is helping her decide.

Ellie: I’m not sure about this one. It’s really low cut in the front. Is it a little sensual for a first date?

Shana: Not at all! You look great! Plus, no guy has ever been annoyed at a dress being too sensual. Do you feel comfortable in it?

Ellie: I do! I think it looks really good, I guess I just worry about being judged.

Shana: If he judges you for looking hot, he isn’t worth it.

Ellie: You know what? You’re right!

Here, Ellie uses the word sensual to describe the dress she is planning to wear on her first date.

Overall, the word sensual is an adjective that relates to the physical pleasure of the sense organs. Sensual pleasure is suggestive in tone, and is suggestive of a sexual pleasure or sexual appetite, or the passions of the body.