Sensual vs. Sensuous

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What did Estée Lauder intend when she named this perfume?

 

I’m addressing these two words in response to a reader request. Here goes:

SENSUAL refers to the fulfillment of the senses, most particularly in a sexual sense:

For example, most readers of Fifty Shades of Gray (of which I am not one) found it a gratifying sensual experience that enhanced their own sex lives.

Traditionally, SENSUOUS is defined as appealing to the senses rather than to the intellect. It can refer to any of the senses. “Elena found that swimming naked was a particularly sensuous experience.” In that sentence, it would appear that Elena was responding to her sense of touch.

However (and you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), both these words are now most commonly used to refer to sexual gratification.

Languages change.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language

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