Sentient Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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If you’re someone who is always in the know, you’ve likely heard about Google engineer Black Lemoine’s recent claim that the company’s AI technology has become sentient — but do you know what the word sentient entails? 

Not to worry — The Word Counter is here to help!

In this post, we’re uncovering all there is to know about the increasingly popular term sentient (ˈsen(t)-sh(ē-)ənt, ˈsen-tē-ənt), including its definition, origin, usage, and more. So, if you’ve ever wondered what sentient means, keep reading.  

What Is the Definition of Sentient?

According to the Collins Dictionary, the adjective sentient (pronounced sen·​tient) is used to describe a being that is capable of experiencing things through its senses. 

In other words, it’s the ability to experience feelings. 

Which Animals Are Sentient Beings?

In Buddhism, a sentient being can be defined as every conscious creature on the planet. 

This way of thinking, however, varies from religion to religion, as well as from country to country. For instance, there is no federal legal recognition that animals are sentient in the US — except for Oregon, which recognizes all animals as sentient. 

So, which animals are considered sentient beings, you ask? It’s tough to say because the definition of “sentient” is quite broad; however, a few examples of different species that are believed by many to be sentient include:

  • Dogs
  • Dolphins
  • Sheep
  • Fish
  • Octopuses
  • Lobsters
  • Squids
  • Horses
  • Elephants
  • Rats
  • Monkeys

While the large majority of animals can be considered sentient, there are a small number of them that — as far as experts can presently tell — don’t have the ability to experience sensory phenomena, whether that be negative or positive. Some of these creatures are as follows: 

  • Oysters
  • Silkworm
  • Archaea
  • Fungi plants
  • Bacteria

What Is the Origin of the word Sentient?

sen·​tient | \ ˈsen(t)-sh(ē-)ənt , ˈsen-tē-ənt \

Our word of the day comes from the Latin verb sentire, meaning “to perceive” or “to feel,” and is closely related to the noun sensus, meaning “sense.”

Some related English words are sentimental and sentiment — which have to do with emotions — as well as sensual, which correlates to more physical sensations. 

The words consent, dissent, and assent are also related to our word of the day; these terms involve a person’s expressions of agreement or disagreement in thought and feeling with another individual.  

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Sentient?

By now, you should have a much better grasp of the word sentient, but if you still feel a little confused, it can be helpful to review its synonyms and antonyms. 

In short, a synonym is a word or phrase that either has the same meaning as another word or phrase or an association and use that is close to that of another word or phrase. An antonym, on the other hand, is simply a word that has the exact opposite meaning of another word. 

Synonyms of sentient include:

  • Able to recognize
  • Alive
  • Watchful
  • Conscious
  • Ware
  • Alert
  • Cognizant
  • Feeling
  • Self-awareness
  • Knowing
  • Perceiving
  • Sensitive to 
  • Apperceptive
  • Awake
  • Informed
  • In on
  • Noticing
  • Seeing
  • Receptive
  • Understanding
  • Attentive
  • Cognizant
  • Comprehension

Antonyms of sentient include:

  • Insentience
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dead
  • Not alive
  • Nonhuman
  • Unreal
  • Inanimateness
  • Emotionless

How Can You Use Sentient in a Sentence?

Wondering how to use sentient in a sentence? Although it can sometimes be tough to get the hang of a new word — we’ve got you covered. 

Here are some great example sentences using our word of the day for you to study below: 

“I don’t know about you, but I believe all plants are sentient.”

“Did you know that humans aren’t the only sentient beings on the planet?”

“Since it barely moves, most folks don’t perceive snails as sentient.”

“Among the many sentient creatures that walk the earth, dolphins are without a doubt my favorite.”

“All sentient life is important… even the ants.”

“If something is able to respond to external stimuli, it’s sentient.”

“When I was at the animal welfare meeting in New York last week, I found out lobsters are now considered sentient in the UK.”

“If you’re a human being — you’re sentient.”

“Mark believes all living things are sentient, but Bob believes otherwise.”

“Despite what many people like to believe, rats are surprisingly sentient.”

“As a botanist who has been in the field for two decades, I’ve come to the realization that plants are sentient beings.”

“My hippie mother refuses to eat any sentient beings so her diet is mostly made up of oysters and fungi plants.”

“I had to write a paper on insects last year, and discovered that these itty-bitty, creepy-crawlies are in fact sentient.”

“Do you think it’s actually possible to create a robot that is sentient?”

What Are Translations of Sentient?

The word sentient derives from sentience, which was coined by philosophers back in the 1630s. Seeing as our word of the day has been around for quite some time, it’s not surprising that there are multiple ways to say it in various languages. 

With this in mind, here are some common translations for your reference below:

  • Afrikaans — sentient
  • Arabic — واع
  • Bulgarian — Съзнателни
  • Chinese (simplified) — 意识
  • Croatian — Živih
  • Czech — vnímající
  • Danish — Følende
  • Dutch — Levende
  • Finnish — tunteva
  • French — sentient
  • German — empfindend
  • Greek — ευαίσθητος
  • Italian — senziente
  • Japanese — 衆生
  • Korean — 지적인
  • Norwegian — Levende
  • Polish — Czujące
  • Portuguese — senciente
  • Russian — чувствующий
  • Spanish — sensible
  • Swedish — Kännande
  • Thai — ความรู้สึก
  • Turkish — Sentient
  • Ukrainian — Живих
  • Vietnamese — có tri giác

A Final Word

The term sentience (known in philosophy as “qualia”) can be defined as the capacity to experience feelings and sensations. 

With this definition in mind, we can conclude that the adjective sentient refers to someone — or something — that perceives and responds to sensations of sight, hearing, taste, or smell.  


Sentient definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

22 Synonyms & Antonyms for SENTIENT |

What Is a Sentient Being? Definition and Examples of Sentient Beings | Sentient Media