Definition of sensual in English:



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

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