Definition of sexual in US English:



  • 1Relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.

    ‘she had felt the thrill of a sexual attraction’
    • ‘The girls found him ‘adorable and soft’ but they knew he was not ‘capable’ of any sexual manoeuvre.’
    • ‘When fetish objects stand in for the sexual object the fetish replaces the genitals within the sexual narrative.’
    • ‘It was obvious to both of us that not only was there the most vibrant sexual attraction between us - more seriously - we were falling deeply in love.’
    • ‘Accordingly, there must, he submitted, be a presumption that an allegation of physical or sexual abuse cannot be established without the attendance of the accuser.’
    • ‘A couple live out a relationship through intimate sexual contact and trips to Brixton Academy.’
    • ‘Radical feminists demand an end to all systems and structures that in any way restrict women's sexual preferences and procreative choices.’
    • ‘People who get married only because of that thing called love or sexual attraction or some other fading property will surely end up on the divorce heap soon enough.’
    • ‘Integral to Wagnerian ideology is a belief that all sense of individual identity vanishes during sexual activity.’
    • ‘This statute forbids certain intimate sexual activity, even in private and even for married couples.’
    • ‘Sexual maturation in the boar is a gradual process, with sexual activity and sperm production starting at approximately four months of age.’
    • ‘Some slaves were treated well, but there were few restraints on their owners' powers, and physical punishment and sexual abuse were common.’
    • ‘He has to be old enough to be capable of sexual response, but not yet old enough to shave.’
    • ‘Remembering acts of physical, emotional and sexual abuse can be extremely painful, and it can be very hard for the therapist and the client to work out what best to do with all that pain and anger.’
    • ‘They are based purely on sexual attraction and release, and any strong emotional involvement between those concerned is socially frowned upon.’
    • ‘Throughout the interview he had presented an extremely distorted attitude and thought processes about his sexual activities with the victim.’
    • ‘Automobiles, contact sports, uncontrolled sexual activity - all ripe for criminalizing.’
    • ‘This was physical attraction, sexual temptation, nothing more.’
    • ‘Since when was it impossible for two men to have a friendship without having sexual feelings or attraction for each other?’
    • ‘Indeed, the sexual attraction is so intense that she interrupts her wedding in order to have intercourse in a toilet.’
    • ‘Greek gods like Priapus are known for nothing else but their sexual and procreative prowess.’
    carnal, erotic, coital, venereal
    View synonyms
  • 2Relating to the two sexes or to gender.

    ‘sensitivity about sexual stereotypes’
    • ‘We then come to the question of gender and sexual equality.’
    • ‘It is often based on systematic observation, and can serve as a genuinely useful tool for expanding our concepts of sexual and gender possibilities.’
    • ‘In the United States, sexual stereotypes are powerful and have helped guide the creation of military policies and regulations.’
    • ‘At the same time, however, the authors refused to acknowledge the sexed body, claiming that sexual difference, like gender, is a cultural construct.’
    • ‘Re-appropriation has now spread to other areas of race, gender and sexual identity.’
    • ‘In exploring the connections between gender and sexuality, she highlighted the constructed nature of sexuality and sexual categories and their importance to social ordering.’
    • ‘Could it be that indigenous cultures actually know more about certain aspects of animal sexual and gender variance than do trained zoologists?’
    • ‘She loud, she's brash and she's winding up po-faced moral guardians by subverting sexual stereotypes.’
    • ‘I could go on about the use of gender and sexual roles in the film.’
    • ‘The award-winning British play promises a salacious good time with its decidedly postmodern take on gender and sexual power relationships in the middle ages.’
    • ‘Almost all of them are interested in gender or sexual identity and want to show how a given work dramatizes the constructed character of selfhood.’
    • ‘We recognize your sexual and gender orientation to be an integral part of who you are.’
    • ‘It involves acknowledging above all, ‘the difference inscribed in nature and subjectivity: sexual difference’.’
    • ‘This cultural code expresses contempt for the body; devalues race, gender and sexual difference; and is fixated on ownership and control.’
    • ‘Three of these central semantic dimensions of rap authenticity are the racial, the gender / sexual, and social location.’
    • ‘Not all this attention to sexual and gender variability is confined to North America.’
    • ‘While the contestations within the field of gender and sexual identity are important, they may also be symptomatic of larger conflicts.’
    • ‘Smith traversed racial, gender, and sexual borders in other performances as well.’
    • ‘Only the naive would think that sexual stereotypes have ended.’
    • ‘Native American rites and beliefs about sexual and gender diversity sometimes extend to animal husbandry.’
    1. 2.1 Of or characteristic of one sex or the other.
      ‘the hormones which control the secondary sexual characteristics’
      • ‘To recognize these differences should however not lead to an essentialism grounded in sexual or cultural characteristics.’
      • ‘Laelae and their equivalent elsewhere in the Pacific clearly point to a dislocation between sexual anatomy and gender identity.’
      • ‘Whether Basil was really male or female was quite impossible to tell; a fox hides its sexual characteristics very effectively between its legs.’
  • 3Being of one sex or the other; capable of sexual reproduction.

    ‘the asexual winged forms lay the eggs which hatch into the sexual form’
    reproductive, genital, sex, procreative
    View synonyms
  • 4Biology
    (of reproduction) involving the fusion of gametes.


Mid 17th century: from late Latin sexualis, from Latin sexus ‘sex’.