Sentient vs sentiment

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Sentient and sentiment are two words that are similar in spelling and pronunciation, but very different in meaning. They are often confused. We will examine the definitions of sentient and sentiment, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Sentient means able to feel or perceive things. Any living thing that has some degree of consciousness is sentient, including insects, lizards, dogs, dolphins and human beings. Of course, since we can’t know for sure how nonhuman animals think and feel, sentience is open to interpretation. Philosophers might argue that only human beings are sentient. Others might claim only mammals are sentient, or only animals with eyes, or only animals with locomotion. These perceptions can have huge philosophical and ethical implications. To describe an animal as sentient usually implies it has some inherent value as a living being. So, for instance, if you feel all mammals and birds are sentient but fish are not, this distinction may guide your dietary choices. The word sentient is derived from the Latin word sentientem, which means feeling. The noun form is sentience. The word sentient is often misused to mean a creature that thinks.

A sentiment may mean an opinion someone holds or it may mean an emotion or feeling. Often, the word sentiment is used in describing feelings of extreme nostalgia or tenderness. Sentiment is a mass noun, which is a noun that can not be counted and does not have a plural form. The adjective form is sentimental. The word sentiment is derived from the Latin word sentire, which means feel.


Animal rights activists are celebrating the outcome, saying children should not be taught that killing ‘‘sentient beings’’ was ‘‘a fun and rewarding activity’’. (The Otago Daily Times)

A Lebanon woman and her husband did not appreciate the anti-American sentiment and soiled food that came out of the Cumberland Street Dunkin’ Donuts store Tuesday morning, an incident the store owner called “unfortunate.” (The Lebanon Daily News)

Ryan Lazar’s voice was full of sentiment when he complimented the collaborative efforts of the Houston community affected by the hurricane. (Lariat Saddleback College News)