• sentient •
Pronunciation: sen-chênt or sent-shee-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Having sensation or feeling, as opposed to being numb or dead. 2. Conscious, awake, even acutely conscious and aware, finely attuned to sensations.
Notes: Sentient does not mean "conscious of oneself or one's existence", as it is sometimes used. This meaning is not completely correct, as the definition shows. Rather, this Good Word refers to an acute consciousness of everything around you that causes sensation: sight, sound, taste, smell, feel. The adverb, of course, is sentiently, and the noun sentience is used far more frequently than sentiency, though both are available.
In Play: The basic meaning of today's Good Word refers simply to the perception of stimuli: "Andover Hand's frost-bitten toe was numb, but the others were painfully sentient of the cold." Andover would also be sentient of the cold in this word's second meaning, "conscious". Sentient can also mean acutely sensitive or conscious: "I was sentient of some tiny movement in the room, as though a mouse had shuffled just slightly in the corner."
Word History: Today's word comes from the Latin stem sentient- "sensing", the present participle of sentire "to sense, perceive". The same verb is at the root of English sentence and what a sentence expresses, a sentiment. The logical cognate of the original Proto-Indo-European root in English would be send. If the original meaning of the root were something like that of send, there must have been a time long past when sensations were interpreted as things sent to us and captured by our senses.