In English speaking cultures, we have the 5 traditional senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell), but I'm wondering if other cultures have only one word for two of those things, ie taste being considered the same as touch. Or if there are words in other languages describing senses we don't have words for in English.

  • Nowadays there are more senses already in English itself (that is, the modern definition of "sense" includes more things than the traditional 5 words), like thermoception (the sense of temperature), equilibrioception (of balance), or proprioception (the sense of the position of one's own body parts/movement). Check out wikipedia for more. Aug 2, 2017 at 21:11
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    To make this a linguistic question, it should at least be about words. For example, "Are there any languages where 'smell' and 'taste' are the same word?"; "Are there languages where you 'smell' garbage and pain?". That would include the options "could be the same word, or not" and "are always the same word". It's not about cultures, it's about meanings in languages, which may tend to be associated with particular languages.
    – user6726
    Aug 2, 2017 at 21:58
  • These seems like it potentially could be a similar situation as with how different languages divide up words for the color space differently? Aug 2, 2017 at 22:02
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    Also note that relying on the word "sense" will cause problems – we also have common, horse and non- sense; moreover, few languages have a word like "sense" that refers to what I assume you're looking for.
    – user6726
    Aug 2, 2017 at 22:18
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    This question was posed (and answered) here: hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/5978/…
    – fdb
    Aug 3, 2017 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


The fivefold division seems to be old, widespread and established, but not universal. See Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 2nd century CE:

Ex quinque his sensibus quos animantibus natura tribuit, visu, auditu, gustu, tactu, odoratu .

Five senses Nature has given to living beings, sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell

But then compare the pseudepigraphical book 2 Enoch 30:11 c. 1st Century CE (probably originally in Greek):

And I gave him seven natures: to the flesh hearing, the eyes for sight, to the soul smell, the veins for touch, the blood for taste, the bones for endurance, to the intelligence sweetness [enjoyment].

Which includes the traditional 5 plus a couple more.

More at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_wits

  • Aristotle was long before Gellius and 2 Enoch.
    – fdb
    Aug 3, 2017 at 9:26
  • The passage is 2 Enoch is not about senses but about the "natures" of different body parts
    – fdb
    Aug 3, 2017 at 9:27

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