Printable Version
Pronunciation: sen-shU-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Appealing to the senses rather than the mind or intellect, as does art, music, food. 2. Related to any pleasure or enjoyment received through the senses; sensory.

Notes: Many of us have difficulty deciding when to use sensuous and when to use sensual. This situation will be taken up in Word History. Today's word comes with an adverb, sensuously. We have our choice of nouns: sensuosity or sensuousness.

In Play: Sensuous has taken on a suggestive connotation despite Milton's efforts: "Maude Lynn Dresser arrived at the party wearing a sensuous silk dress adorned with a wealth of glittering jewelry." But purists stick with the nonsuggestive denotation: "The dinner was a sensuous explosion with its sliced pork intersticed with truffles, filets on a garlic mushroom sauce, lobsters galore, accompanied by six or seven steamed vegetables, and topped off with four different desserts."

Word History: Sensual first appeared in the 15th century in the same sense as today's word. However, by the time of John Milton, it had acquired the implication of "sensual love", which it still has today. In order to avoid this connotation, Milton introduced sensuous in 1641. However, Milton's word had simply assumed the lascivious connotation by 1870 in most dialects. The word was borrowed from Latin sensus "perception, feeling, meaning", derived from sentire "to perceive, feel, know". Apparently, this word wandered down from PIE sent- "to go; to feel", origin of German Sinn "sense, mind", Norwegian sinn "mind", Lithuanian siųsti "to send", Dutch zien "see, sense, perceive", and English send. In the Celtic languages we find Welsh (spoken in Wales) hynt "way, course, journey", and Breton (spoken in Brittany) hent "way, path".

Dr. Goodword,

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