Sensitive or Sensible?

Jeanette Bazeley, February 1, 2023

In English, there are many words that sound similar to words in Spanish but cannot be directly translated. These words are known as false cognates or false friends. It’s important to learn these words because you could save yourself some embarrassment in the future! Today we’ll discuss two of them; sensitive and sensible. It can be very helpful to think of a memory crutch to help you associate the right meaning with the right word. For example, you could think of a sensible person using their brain; both words have the letter “b”.

Sensitive (adjective):

1. Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals or influences
2. Easily offended or upset
3. Delicate, fragile, tender
4. Kept secret to avoid endangering security

(Other forms: sensitivity, sensitively)

Examples: If I had known how sensitive she was, I wouldn’t have made the remark.  The patient's responses are recorded on a sensitive piece of equipment which gives extremely accurate readings. Because consumers are so dependent on petroleum, raising fuel prices is a sensitive issue. The court case involves a lot of sensitive information which is not able to be disclosed to the public.

Sensible (adjective):

1. Chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence; likely to be of benefit
2. Practical, realistic, reasonable

(Other forms: sensibility, sensibly)

Examples: It would be sensible to take an umbrella to work, as it looks like it might rain. When you plan to climb a mountain in the fall, you need to wear sensible clothing, such as hiking shoes and many thin layers.

Image courtesy Aiony Haust