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1. Capable of perceiving with a sense or senses: Aristotle held that animals have a sensitive soul, but only humans have a rational one.
2. Responsive or capable of responding to a chemical stimulus or substance. Used especially of a cell, tissue, or organism.
a. Susceptible to slight differences or changes in the environment: a plant that is sensitive to rapid changes in temperature; heat-sensitive enzymes.
b. Readily altered by the action of an agent: film that is sensitive to light.
c. Registering slight differences or changes of condition. Used of an instrument.
a. Easily irritated: sensitive skin.
b. Predisposed to inflammation as a result of preexisting allergy or disease: People with celiac disease are sensitive to gluten.
a. Aware of or careful about the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of others: The book is a sensitive treatment of a troubled friendship.
b. Easily hurt, upset, or offended: Teenagers tend to be especially sensitive about their appearance.
6. Fluctuating or tending to fluctuate, especially in price: sensitive stocks.
7. Of or relating to secret or classified information: sensitive defense data; holds a sensitive position in the State Department.
1. A sensitive person.
2. One held to be endowed with psychic or occult powers.

[Middle English, from Old French sensitif, from Medieval Latin sēnsitīvus, from Latin sēnsus, sense; see sense.]

sen′si·tive·ly adv.
sen′si·tive·ness n.




  1. Bruise easily like a ripe pear —A. C. Greene
  2. Ego … as delicate as tissue paper —Christopher Buckley
  3. Exposed as if on a raft —Joseph Conrad
  4. Felt like a shell-fish that had lost its shell —Olivia Manning
  5. Felt like a vegetable without its skin: raw and vulnerable —Laurie Colwin
  6. Felt myself exposed … as sharply as in a photograph —John Updike
  7. Gentle as milk —Sylvia Berkman
  8. Inherited sensibilities like jewels as red as rubies and blood —Janet Flanner
  9. Interpreted the episode as sensitively as an unleashed bull would —Z. Vance Wilson
  10. My sensibility begins to screech like chalk upon the blackboard scrawled —Delmore Schwartz
  11. A person who is always having her feelings hurt is about as pleasant a companion as a pebble in a shoe —Elbert Hubbard

    A non-gender specific paraphrased from the original which began with “The woman.”

  12. Sensitive as a barometer —Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  13. Sensitive as a stick of dynamite or a hand grenade —Mike Sommer
  14. [An alert horse, with ears turning and twitching to catch all sounds] sensitive as radar —Jilly Cooper
  15. Sensitive as the leaves of a silver birch —Joseph Hergesheimer
  16. Sensitive as the money market —Thomas Hardy
  17. (Taste buds as) sensitive as the skin on a mailman’s feet —Ira Wood
  18. Thick-skinned as a brontosaurus —Francis Goldwin, quoted on his sensitiveness to anything but imitations of his company’s toy dinosaurs, Wall Street Journal, June 15, 1987
  19. Touchy as a second degree burn —Harry Prince
  20. Vulnerable as one of those primitive creatures between two skins or two shells, like a lobster or a crab —David R. Slavitt
  21. (You are) vulnerable as the first buds of the maple —Marge Piercy
  22. With all her stubbornness and punch, she could be sliced like scrapple —Sharon Sheehe Stark
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.sensitiveness - sensitivity to emotional feelings (of self and others)
feeling - the experiencing of affective and emotional states; "she had a feeling of euphoria"; "he had terrible feelings of guilt"; "I disliked him and the feeling was mutual"
oversensitiveness - sensitivity leading to easy irritation or upset
sensibility - refined sensitivity to pleasurable or painful impressions; "cruelty offended his sensibility"
feelings - emotional or moral sensitivity (especially in relation to personal principles or dignity); "the remark hurt his feelings"
2.sensitiveness - (physiology) responsiveness to external stimulisensitiveness - (physiology) responsiveness to external stimuli; the faculty of sensation; "sensitivity to pain"
sensory faculty, sentiency, sentience, sense, sensation - the faculty through which the external world is apprehended; "in the dark he had to depend on touch and on his senses of smell and hearing"
acuteness - a sensitivity that is keen and highly developed; "dogs have a remarkable acuteness of smell"
hypersensitivity - extreme sensitivity
reactivity, responsiveness - responsive to stimulation
exteroception - sensitivity to stimuli originating outside of the body
interoception - sensitivity to stimuli originating inside of the body
photosensitivity, radiosensitivity - sensitivity to the action of radiant energy
physiology - the branch of the biological sciences dealing with the functioning of organisms
3.sensitiveness - the ability to respond to physical stimuli or to register small physical amounts or differences; "a galvanometer of extreme sensitivity"; "the sensitiveness of Mimosa leaves does not depend on a change of growth"
physical property - any property used to characterize matter and energy and their interactions
frequency response - (electronics) a curve representing the output-to-input ratio of a transducer as a function of frequency
4.sensitiveness - the ability to respond to affective changes in your interpersonal environment
antenna, feeler - sensitivity similar to that of a receptor organ; "he had a special antenna for public relations"
defensiveness - excessive sensitivity to criticism; "his defensiveness was manifested in hurt silence"; "the fear of being sued for malpractice has magnified physicians' defensiveness"
perceptiveness - the quality of insight and sympathetic understanding
ability - the quality of being able to perform; a quality that permits or facilitates achievement or accomplishment
insensitiveness, insensitivity - the inability to respond to affective changes in your interpersonal environment


1. The capacity for or an act of responding to a stimulus:
2. The quality or condition of being emotionally and intuitively sensitive:
næmi, viîkvæmni


(ˈsensitiv) adjective
1. (usually with to) strongly or easily affected (by something). sensitive skin; sensitive to light.
2. (usually with about or to) easily hurt or offended. She is very sensitive to criticism.
3. having or showing artistic good taste. a sensitive writer; a sensitive performance.
ˈsensitively adverb
ˈsensitiveness noun
ˌsensiˈtivity noun
References in classic literature ?
Then, they who succeeded, changing their tones to a milder and still more tender strain, alluded, with the delicacy and sensitiveness of women, to the stranger maiden, who had left the upper earth at a time so near his own departure, as to render the will of the Great Spirit too manifest to be disregarded.
In childhood, he was remarkable for an extreme and marked sensitiveness of character, more akin to the softness of woman than the ordinary hardness of his own sex.
Rebecca's hair was loosened and falling over her forehead in ruffled waves; her eyes were brilliant, her cheeks crimson; there was a hint of everything in the girl's face,--of sensitiveness and delicacy as well as of ardor; there was the sweetness of the mayflower and the strength of the young oak, but one could easily divine that she was one of
If you had been a fellow of any sensitiveness or delicacy of feeling in that kind of way, Sydney, I might have been a little resentful of your employing such a designation; but you are not.
I had little objection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both of whom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as to his being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt.
However, I am not prone to sensitiveness, and the following of a sense of duty, wherever it may lead, has always been a kind of fetich with me throughout my life; which may account for the honors bestowed upon me by three republics and the decorations and friendships of an old and powerful emperor and several lesser kings, in whose service my sword has been red many a time.
And last of all, that evident confusion in the sunshine, that hasty yet fumbling awkward flight towards dark shadow, and that peculiar carriage of the head while in the light--all reinforced the theory of an extreme sensitiveness of the retina.
If you will forgive me what may seem to you a piece of rudeness, I declare that the poor man is ashamed of such things with the sensitiveness of a young girl.
Of the malice, which generally accompanies a superfluity of sensitiveness, Ilbrahim was altogether destitute: when trodden upon, he would not turn; when wounded, he could but die.
For, with Arthur's sensitiveness to opinion, the loss of Adam's respect was a shock to his self-contentment which suffused his imagination with the sense that he had sunk in all eyes--as a sudden shock of fear from some real peril makes a nervous woman afraid even to step, because all her perceptions are suffused with a sense of danger.
I seem to recognize in him one of those characters who, sensitive enough themselves, are selfishly relentless towards the sensitiveness of others.
She possessed one of those fearless and incautious dispositions that find gratification in an excess of sensitiveness of feeling, and for whom, also, danger has a certain fascination.