Definition of sensitive in English:



  • 1Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.

    ‘the new method of protein detection was more sensitive than earlier ones’
    ‘spiders are sensitive to vibrations on their web’
    • ‘Oberlander will also explain that people are highly sensitive to subliminal signals about personality, regardless of whether or not they know who a message has come from.’
    • ‘Other applications of this discovery include sensors so sensitive that they can detect a single molecule.’
    • ‘Platelets are quite sensitive to outside signals because they have to clump together to prevent blood loss.’
    • ‘Well we found that females seem to be more sensitive to perceiving these signals of fear.’
    • ‘The patient seems to be sensitive to this particular response and asks whether he believes what she has said.’
    • ‘Reflected signals from radar are sensitive to water surface roughness.’
    • ‘The most simple way to look at this is that a genotype might influence who is sensitive to the impact of that first unhealthy weight loss diet they go on, she said.’
    • ‘A young and eager mind endowed with the gift of scientific aptitude is particularly sensitive to these societal influences.’
    • ‘The whole process of category building is dynamic and extremely sensitive to patterns detected in the data.’
    • ‘He said he palpitated the man's liver beforehand rather than carrying out an ultrasound scan because, at the time, it was a more sensitive method for detecting tumours.’
    • ‘Well, the only thing is he is so extraordinarily responsive and sensitive to any move that I make that it's uncanny.’
    • ‘In those cells they found proteins called cryptochromes which are highly sensitive to magnetism, undergoing slight structural alterations in response to changes in a magnetic field.’
    • ‘You've written that patients today are more sensitive to body signals; they're more likely to go to the doctor for something than they would have a few decades ago.’
    • ‘The vegetative tissues of perennials may also be systemically less sensitive to senescence signals.’
    • ‘Information is only information in relation to a specific mechanism sensitive to a specific signal.’
    • ‘American units look for enemy command posts with sensitive systems that can detect radio transmissions and other signatures that TOCs give off.’
    • ‘Well the sensor is very versatile and it works in simultaneous modes so it both detects magnetic materials but it's also sensitive to the electric susceptibility.’
    • ‘In contrast, signal amplitude is found most sensitive to the phosphatase reactions at the ERK level.’
    • ‘Sucrose is a good subject for testing the sequence because it has resonances very close to that of water, making the signal sensitive to the quality of the water suppression.’
    • ‘Males that are sensitive to females' signals are more likely to mate with several females, she added.’
    responsive to, quick to respond to, sensitized to, reactive to, sentient of
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    1. 1.1 Easily damaged, injured, or distressed by slight changes.
      ‘the committee called for improved protection of wildlife in environmentally sensitive areas’
      • ‘Both parental and cells were equally sensitive to damage by the alkylating agent.’
      • ‘A helicopter had to be used to move materials to the site to start the project because wheeled vehicles would have caused too much damage to the sensitive environment of the existing ancient woodland around the site.’
      • ‘Strains with mutations in both genes are very sensitive to DNA damaging agents, have very short telomeres, and undergo cellular senescence.’
      • ‘The edge guard bands make the cartridge less sensitive to possible tape damage as a result of non-uniform tape pack wind, temperature shock, and transportation.’
      • ‘Bundle sheath proteins are more sensitive to oxidative damage than those of the mesophyll in maize leaves exposed to paraquat or low temperatures’
      • ‘The perianal area can be highly sensitive to perfumes, soaps, clothes, fabrics, dietary intake and superficial trauma.’
      • ‘He said the vehicles ‘had a major visible impact with serious ramifications for Dartmoor National Park’, damaging sensitive areas of bog and heather.’
      • ‘Mechanical control is popular and effective but call be cost prohibitive and may damage environmentally sensitive areas.’
      • ‘All the electronic equipment using the semiconductor-based solid-state technology and their functioning is highly sensitive to the ambient temperature.’
      • ‘The area was extremely sensitive to even light touch, and he was unwilling to have acupuncture needles inserted in or around this area because of the severe pain.’
      • ‘He pointed to the damage done to the sensitive ecosystems in Shoalwater Bay by the US-Australia military training exercises that have taken place there since 1992.’
      • ‘He says around 80 per cent of the West MacDonnells park is spinifex, and the big fires that come out of it damage the sensitive non-spinifex areas.’
      • ‘These creams and ointments vary in strength, and using the wrong strength in sensitive areas can damage the skin, especially in infants.’
      • ‘Modified tips are extremely sensitive to damage and/or contamination, resulting in nonspecific interactions with the surface.’
      • ‘The Region of Waterloo has recently posted signs around the region warning people that the pumps are in areas that are sensitive to runoff.’
      • ‘The burned area will be sensitive to sunlight for up to one year.’
      • ‘Prefabrication of the building in a nearby factory minimized both construction waste and damage to the sensitive area by heavy equipment.’
      • ‘Are the border areas more sensitive to any disruption to their own French identity?’
      • ‘It says there will be additional business opportunities in tourism and recreation although extreme weather could also damage sensitive attractions such as York Minster and Bolton Priory.’
      • ‘There would also be a great impact from invasive weeds into the area and damage to the sensitive forest floor.’
      delicate, easily damaged, fragile
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    2. 1.2 (of photographic materials) prepared so as to respond rapidly to the action of light.
      • ‘The blue filter is measuring blue light in the visible spectrum, not the ultraviolet light to which platinum materials are sensitive.’
      • ‘Their differences could be recorded by displaying their transmissions on a cathode ray tube and using a cine camera, equipped with very sensitive film, to take high-speed photographs of them.’
      • ‘Even the orthochromatic films were not sensitive to red light.’
      • ‘A silver-based sensitive coating, then on paper, later on glass and ultimately on plastic film, was used for a brief exposure in the camera.’
      • ‘Orthochromatic films are not sensitive to red light at all, and may be developed under a red safelight.’
    3. 1.3 (of a market) unstable and liable to quick changes of price because of outside influences.
      ‘the Japanese were successfully entering many of the most sensitive markets’
      • ‘Some farmers and processors are saying we should not be afraid to test all cattle going to slaughter for BSE, or at least those going to sensitive markets such as Japan.’
      • ‘This regimen is widely used in cost sensitive markets, but even in the United States it is still popular.’
      • ‘The entertainment business is the most sensitive market in the world.’
      • ‘This directly affects consumer spending, and especially sensitive markets such as house prices.’
      • ‘You can either copy as many times as you like, or not copy at all, and the record companies have been terrified of implementing the ‘copy protection on’ mode in sensitive markets.’
  • 2Having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others' feelings.

    ‘I pay tribute to the Minister for his sensitive handling of the bill’
    • ‘Those who can appreciate a sensitive portrayal of Native Americans are also recommended to add this to their collection.’
    • ‘Nietzsche, in fact, provides an occasion for some of his most penetrating insights and most sensitive interpretations.’
    • ‘Exhumation and re-interment of remains will be handled in a sensitive way.’
    • ‘It also asked for a more sensitive approach in handling such cases, but nothing seems to have come out of it.’
    • ‘‘This was a peaceful vigil and it is unfortunate that this incident took place but the police should be thanked for the sensitive way they handled it,’ he said.’
    • ‘In the future a more sensitive appreciation for these sorts of emotional predispositions can help us generate a more refined approach to violence prevention.’
    • ‘The Yorkshire Euro MP may not be the first person you'd think of if you were looking for a sensitive appreciation of the modern woman.’
    • ‘We can well see that communicating a notice of suspension outside the front door is not the most sensitive way to handle this delicate matter.’
    • ‘He said that at the time of the original call, attempts were made to trace the man in a sensitive and delicate manner, but without success.’
    • ‘I now have a more sensitive appreciation of how devastating war really is.’
    • ‘An assessment of these may provide us with more accurate and more sensitive insights into the Indian past.’
    • ‘His career as a dance artist and experience as manager/producer also helped bring sensitive insights into the workshop discussions.’
    • ‘Surely, the Congress should be sensitive and appreciative of the hostility to foreign troops.’
    • ‘Where customers fall seriously into debt they continue to be handled in a sensitive manner without compromising targets on return.’
    • ‘The beautiful MacMillan work got a sensitive and delicate reading that asked for more of this seldom heard but wonderful English composer.’
    • ‘The issue of Alzheimer's is dealt with in a sensitive and delicate manner, which doesn't overplay the pity.’
    • ‘One is Mary's uniquely sensitive appreciation of the myriad ways in which the case for academic freedom may be advanced.’
    • ‘Their sensitive and delicate portrayal of tales is so real and touching that they have become the hallmark of Iranian cinema in the recent past.’
    tactful, careful, thoughtful, diplomatic, delicate, subtle, finely tuned, kid-glove
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    1. 2.1 Easily offended or upset.
      ‘I suppose I shouldn't be so sensitive’
      • ‘There is a bunch of stuff I don't like or need, but we won't go there so as to not offend the sensitive and thin skinned.’
      • ‘The guidelines dictate that emotionally charged topics be avoided on tests, for fear that mention of them might upset sensitive children.’
      • ‘O'Leary cheerfully acknowledges that his abrasive manner upsets the more sensitive among those he deals with.’
      • ‘We'll give you some first impressions later today, and after that - and if we haven't offended the sensitive vendors too much - full reviews should follow in the next couple of weeks.’
      • ‘He has a very intense, sensitive temperament and quickly becomes upset, angry, anxious, over-excited and frustrated.’
      • ‘But he was highly sensitive, easily discouraged by setbacks; and in 1915 resigned from his union post to convalesce from alcoholism.’
      • ‘Women would benefit enormously from this - we are very sensitive and get upset about small things, and men have no idea.’
      • ‘Those warnings about images which may upset sensitive viewers have become much more few and far between.’
      • ‘He offended sensitive members of the staff and press with arrogant quips about artists and audiences, but he revitalised an elderly board and ran a tight set of budgets.’
      • ‘There are wild-looking cats wandering the open areas and this might upset the very sensitive.’
      • ‘Never forget, she warns, that young girls are highly sensitive, and the last thing we should be doing is telling our daughters they look a sight.’
      • ‘He was highly sensitive about his background and age (‘Just say I'm in my late thirties,’ he used to tell journalists).’
      • ‘And the movie contains non-exploitative sexual content featuring minors that may offend more sensitive viewers.’
      • ‘It was his preferred statement which was then packaged as part of a departmental information kit and sent to those sensitive Christians upset at the sight of children behind razor wire.’
      • ‘Wendy Noel plays Maureen as an edgy, outspoken and sensitive woman.’
      easily offended, easily upset, easily hurt, thin-skinned, touchy, oversensitive, hypersensitive, defensive
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  • 3Kept secret or with restrictions on disclosure to avoid endangering security.

    ‘he was suspected of passing sensitive information to other countries’
    • ‘Be aware that even in your own office, maintaining the security of sensitive information can have its challenges, especially around visitors.’
    • ‘As someone who was intimately involved in dealing with the most sensitive national security secrets out there, how big of a flap is this?’
    • ‘Exploiting this vulnerability will lead to denial of service, execution of arbitrary code, or the disclosure of sensitive information.’
    • ‘And second, Uncle Sam needs to use domestic companies to keep sensitive defense and security information within U.S. borders.’
    • ‘In addition to the above, some classified information is so sensitive that even the extra protection measures applied to Top Secret information are not sufficient.’
    • ‘Whether or not it contained any sensitive security information was immaterial.’
    • ‘Such security information is genuinely sensitive; the government has a right to protect it.’
    • ‘To saddle them with convenient moralizing about jeopardising the financial system by untimely disclosure of sensitive information only compounds the offence.’
    • ‘Any tribunal which has to confront a Minister on a sensitive issue of document disclosure, should enjoy security of employment.’
    • ‘General statements that, for example, the information is sensitive security information, are inadequate to satisfy the government's burden.’
    • ‘The object was to avoid creating situations where sensitive information might be at risk.’
    • ‘A US Airways Express spokesman declined to comment on the charges, citing airline policy against revealing sensitive security information.’
    • ‘The overall effect gives weight to the opinions of some of your correspondents that this is a very convenient rule indeed if a councillor wishes to avoid commitment or keep sensitive information under wraps.’
    • ‘It is thought unlikely that the report will be published because of the sensitive security and operational information that it contains.’
    • ‘They should restrict access to sensitive information to only those employees with a need to know.’
    • ‘‘We did have a breach of security, with sensitive police information somehow leaking out,’ Mills said.’
    • ‘Committee members were urged to keep all details of the meeting secret to prevent the sensitive information leaking into the public domain.’
    • ‘The Victorian Opposition has released details of what it claims is yet another breach of sensitive security information within the Victoria Police.’
    • ‘Access to especially sensitive information would be restricted to those participating in the oversight arrangements, and the fact of access would be documented.’
    • ‘And why would a senior Pentagon official tell you this very secret and sensitive information?’
    private, personal, intimate, privileged, quiet
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  • A person who is believed to respond to paranormal influences.

    • ‘Thus, the positive results demonstrated by the sensitives do not appear to have resulted from ubiquitous stereotypes regarding ghosts that caused witnesses and sensitives to respond to the locale in a concordant manner.’
    • ‘Merc believes that we sensitives should harness our powers to the good of the revolution.’
    • ‘The sensitives believed themselves capable of sensing ghosts, and that is what they attempted to do.’
    • ‘Here we have another frontier to explore with shamans, channels, mediums, and sundry sensitives.’
    • ‘Attempts have been made by various groups to work with trained sensitives in the presence of a crystal skull and record the impressions that they psychically receive.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘sensory’): from Old French sensitif, -ive or medieval Latin sensitivus, formed irregularly from Latin sentire ‘feel’. The current senses date from the early 19th century.