Sentience vs sapience

Photo of author


Sentience and sapience are two terms that are often confused. We will examine the difference between the definitions of sentience and sapience, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Sentience means the ability to feel things, the ability to perceive things. Any living thing that has some degree of consciousness is sentient, including insects, lizards, dogs, dolphins and human beings. The word sentience is derived from the Latin word sentientem, which means feeling. The adjective form is sentient. The word sentience is often misused to mean a creature that thinks.

Sapience means the ability to think, the capacity for intelligence, the ability to acquire wisdom. The scientific name for modern man is Homo sapiens. Sapience only describes a living thing that is able to think. The word sapience is derived from the Latin word sapientia, which means intelligence or discernment. The adjective form is sapient. Note that sentience is often misused in place of the word sapience.


In France in the 1930’s, francophone African intellectuals who greatly disapproved of France’s colonialism believed that Africans needed a collective identity, one founded on principles of sentience, independence, and a holistic view of Black bodies as significant, especially in the fields of literature and intellectual thought. (The Duke Chronicle)

But still, Blame! has one of the most fascinating premises for a post-apocalypse I’ve seen: It takes place after cities become so connected they literally gain sentience, deem humanity an infestation, and declare them illegal. (GQ Magazine)

It is also a rare event, the first solo show in nearly seven years of work by an artist, now seventy-eight, who is not only esteemed but cherished in the art world, as a paragon of aesthetic rigor, poetic sapience, and brusque, funny personal charm. (The New Yorker)