Definition of sensual in US English:



  • Relating to or involving gratification of the senses and physical, especially sexual, pleasure.

    ‘the production of the ballet is sensual and passionate’
    • ‘She also sings rather well, with a husky, sensual tone hinting at a passion lurking under all those crinolines.’
    • ‘There is pure sensual pleasure in being in the water, going at my own pace, and life looks better afterwards.’
    • ‘It's such a sensual treat that I wonder if I can just get the hair wash and skip the cut altogether.’
    • ‘She took an almost sensual pleasure in snow, rubbing her nose in it, eating it, tossing it in the air, dancing in it.’
    • ‘His films generally concern the cruel power of obsessional love and the need for sensual pleasure.’
    • ‘With its sensual pear shape, light green buttery flesh and single large stone, the avocado is like no other fruit.’
    • ‘Each seed is in a small cell of green jellyish flesh, and spooning it into your mouth is a decidedly sensual experience.’
    • ‘Her voice is amazingly kaleidoscopic, its many colours opening up a world of sensual delights.’
    • ‘The Moon in Pisces refers to a voluptuous and sensual nature and is often cited as indicating numerous attachments.’
    • ‘Sleep is likely to be fitful while you linger in the delicious sensual afterglow.’
    • ‘Food, I discover, is sensual, exciting and irresistibly connected with sex.’
    • ‘She was obviously a sensual and passionate woman who loved listening to and playing music.’
    • ‘But within an hour of setting off next morning, thoughts turned from the spiritual to the sensual.’
    • ‘She has this big box of sensual anger that's all neatly locked up by her superego.’
    • ‘She introduced him to sensual and sexual pleasure, but her continued liaisons caused him pain.’
    • ‘You can have a great time with a partner, feeling aroused, sensual, intimate and loving, and not have an orgasm.’
    • ‘Sex is seen as part of this sensual excess; it's not transformative or transcendent.’
    • ‘She loves text and she loves to create rich, vibrant, sensual worlds around words.’
    • ‘They both still feel most at home in the water, and revel in its sensual pleasures.’
    • ‘You are bound to share sensual delights and exotic pleasures with your cherished one.’
    physical, physically gratifying, carnal, bodily, fleshly, animal
    sexually attractive, sexy, voluptuous, sultry, seductive, passionate
    View synonyms


The words sensual and sensuous are frequently used interchangeably to mean ‘gratifying the senses,’ especially in a sexual sense. Strictly speaking, this goes against a traditional distinction, by which sensuous is a more neutral term, meaning ‘relating to the senses rather than the intellect’ (swimming is a beautiful, sensuous experience), while sensual relates to gratification of the senses, especially sexually (a sensual massage). In fact, the word sensuous is thought to have been invented by John Milton (1641) in a deliberate attempt to avoid the sexual overtones of sensual. In practice, the connotations are such that it is difficult to use sensuous in Milton's sense. While traditionalists struggle to maintain a distinction, the evidence suggests that the neutral use of sensuous is rare in modern English. If a neutral use is intended, it is advisable to use alternative wording


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘sensory’): from late Latin sensualis, from sensus (see sense).