583 Sensory Words to Take Your Writing from Bland to Brilliant

sensory words

It’s almost too easy.

By using sensory words to evoke sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell; smart and attractive writers just like you are able to make their words burst to life in their readers’ minds.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • The science behind sensory details (e.g. why sensory words are so persuasive);
  • The definition of sensory details (plus examples);
  • How answering five simple questions will help you write descriptive details that pack your content with sensory language;
  • 500+ sensory words you can incorporate into your own writing (right now).

Let’s dive in.

The Colossal Power of Sensory Details

Remember the final scene in Field of Dreams when Ray Kinsella has a catch with his dad?

You can smell the grass on the field.

You can hear the sound of the baseball hitting their gloves.

And you can feel Ray’s years of guilt melting away as he closes his eyes, smiles, and tosses the ball back to his dad.

(Be honest. You’re crying right now, aren’t you?)

Field of Dreams made you feel like you were in Ray’s shoes, on his field, playing catch with dad.

The scene creates such a vivid experience for many viewers that whenever they think of playing catch, this scene will come up alongside their own childhood memories.

Here’s why:

When you paint a strong scene in your audience’s mind, you make it easier for them to pull it back up from their memory. You’ve essentially bookmarked it for them so they can easily find it when something — a sight, a smell, a sound — reminds them of it.

That’s the power of content that incorporates sensory details.

And this power isn’t limited to cinema classics capable of making grown men cry. For centuries, literary giants have been packing their prose with powerful words that evoke the senses:

“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial”
— William Shakespeare (circa 1599)

In addition to The Bard, authors like Maya Angelou, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens excel at the use of sensory language. So do literally every famous poet you learned about in school.

And that begs the obvious question…

Why are Sensory Details so Effective?

Short answer:

The brains of human beings handle sensory words differently than ordinary words.

In a 2011 study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, experts found that our brains process “tangible” (i.e. sensory) words faster than other words.

And in a study published for Brain and Language in 2012, psychologists found that a certain part of our brain is “activated” when we read sensory words.

In other words:

science

So, we know why sensory details are powerful. And we know writers have been tapping into their power for a long, long time.

Now let’s define them and go over a few examples:

Let’s break each one down:

1. Sight Sensory Words

Words related to vision describe the appearance of something (its color, size, shape, and so on).

Examples of sight words:

  • Her golden hair looked disheveled thanks to the gust of wind.
  • He was a towering presence.
  • I ordered a large orange juice, but the waiter brought me a teeny-tiny glass the size of a thimble.
Click here to see all 185 sight sensory words
  1. Angular
  2. Azure
  3. Billowy
  4. Black
  5. Bleary
  6. Bloated
  7. Blonde
  8. Blue
  9. Blurred
  10. Blushing
  11. Branching
  12. Bright
  13. Brilliant
  14. Broad
  15. Brown
  16. Brunette
  17. Bulbous
  18. Bulky
  19. Camouflaged
  20. Chubby
  21. Circular
  22. Colorful
  23. Colorless
  24. Colossal
  25. Contoured
  26. Cosmic
  27. Craggy
  28. Crimson
  29. Crinkled
  30. Crooked
  31. Crowded
  32. Crystalline
  33. Curved
  34. Dark
  35. Dazzling
  36. Deep
  37. Dim
  38. Dingy
  39. Disheveled
  40. Distinct
  41. Drab
  42. Dreary
  43. Dull
  44. Dusty
  45. Elegant
  46. Enchanting
  47. Engaging
  48. Enormous
  49. Faded
  50. Fancy
  51. Fat
  52. Filthy
  53. Flashy
  54. Flat
  55. Flickering
  56. Foggy
  57. Forked
  58. Freckled
  59. Fuzzy
  60. Gargantuan
  61. Gaudy
  62. Gigantic
  63. Ginormous
  64. Glamorous
  65. Gleaming
  66. Glimpse
  67. Glistening
  68. Glitter
  69. Glittering
  70. Globular
  71. Gloomy
  72. Glossy
  73. Glowing
  74. Gold
  75. Graceful
  76. Gray
  77. Green
  78. Grotesque
  79. Hazy
  80. Hollow
  81. Homely
  82. Huge
  83. Illuminated
  84. Immense
  85. Indistinct
  86. Ivory
  87. Knotty
  88. Lacy
  89. Lanky
  90. Large
  91. Lavender
  92. Lean
  93. Lithe
  94. Little
  95. Lofty
  96. Long
  97. Low
  98. Malnourished
  99. Maroon
  100. Massive
  101. Miniature
  102. Misshapen
  103. Misty
  104. Motionless
  105. Mottled
  106. Mountainous
  107. Muddy
  108. Murky
  109. Narrow
  110. Obtuse
  111. Olive
  112. Opaque
  113. Orange
  114. Oval
  115. Pale
  116. Peered
  117. Petite
  118. Pink
  119. Portly
  120. Pristine
  121. Prodigious
  122. Purple
  123. Quaint
  124. Radiant
  125. Rectangular
  126. Red
  127. Reddish
  128. Rippling
  129. Rotund
  130. Round
  131. Ruby
  132. Ruddy
  133. Rusty
  134. Sabotaged
  135. Shadowy
  136. Shallow
  137. Shapeless
  138. Sheer
  139. Shimmering
  140. Shiny
  141. Short
  142. Silver
  143. Skinny
  144. Small
  145. Smudged
  146. Soaring
  147. Sparkling
  148. Sparkly
  149. Spherical
  150. Spotless
  151. Spotted
  152. Square
  153. Steep
  154. Stormy
  155. Straight
  156. Strange
  157. Striped
  158. Sunny
  159. Swooping
  160. Tall
  161. Tapering
  162. Tarnished
  163. Teeny-tiny
  164. Tiny
  165. Towering
  166. Translucent
  167. Transparent
  168. Triangular
  169. Turquoise
  170. Twinkling
  171. Twisted
  172. Ugly
  173. Unsightly
  174. Unusual
  175. Vibrant
  176. Vivid
  177. Weird
  178. White
  179. Wide
  180. Wiry
  181. Wispy
  182. Wizened
  183. Wrinkled
  184. Wrinkly
  185. Yellow

2. Sound Sensory Words

Words related to hearing often describe the sound they make (known as onomatopoeia), but this isn’t always the case.

Examples of hearing words:

  • He had a big, booming voice.
  • The sound of screeching tires was soon followed by the deafening sound of a car horn.
  • As I peeked under the bed, the cackling laughter coming from the closet made the hairs on my arms stand up.
Click here to see all 161 sound sensory words
  1. Babble
  2. Bang
  3. Barking
  4. Bawled
  5. Bawling
  6. Bellow
  7. Blare
  8. Blaring
  9. Bleat
  10. Boom
  11. Booming
  12. Bray
  13. Buzz
  14. Buzzing
  15. Cackle
  16. Cackling
  17. Chatter
  18. Chattering
  19. Cheer
  20. Chiming
  21. Chirping
  22. Chuckle
  23. Clamor
  24. Clang
  25. Clanging
  26. Clap
  27. Clapping
  28. Clicking
  29. Clink
  30. Clinking
  31. Cooing
  32. Coughing
  33. Crackle
  34. Crackling
  35. Crashing
  36. Creak
  37. Croaking
  38. Crow
  39. Crunch
  40. Crunching
  41. Crunchy
  42. Cry
  43. Crying
  44. Deafening
  45. Distorted
  46. Dripping
  47. Ear-piercing
  48. Earsplitting
  49. Exploding
  50. Faint
  51. Fizzing
  52. Gagging
  53. Gasping
  54. Giggle
  55. Giggling
  56. Grate
  57. Grating
  58. Growl
  59. Grumble
  60. Grunt
  61. Grunting
  62. Guffaw
  63. Gurgle
  64. Gurgling
  65. Hanging
  66. Hiss
  67. Hissing
  68. Honking
  69. Howl
  70. Hubbub
  71. Hum
  72. Humming
  73. Hush
  74. Jabber
  75. Jangle
  76. Jangling
  77. Laughing
  78. Moaning
  79. Monotonous
  80. Mooing
  81. Muffled
  82. Mumble
  83. Mumbling
  84. Murmur
  85. Mutter
  86. Muttering
  87. Noisy
  88. Peeping
  89. Piercing
  90. Ping
  91. Pinging
  92. Plopping
  93. Pop
  94. Purring
  95. Quacking
  96. Quiet
  97. Rant
  98. Rapping
  99. Rasping
  100. Raucous
  101. Rave
  102. Ringing
  103. Roar
  104. Roaring
  105. Rumble
  106. Rumbling
  107. Rustle
  108. Rustling
  109. Scratching
  110. Scream
  111. Screaming
  112. Screech
  113. Screeching
  114. Serene
  115. Shout
  116. Shouting
  117. Shrieking
  118. Shrill
  119. Sigh
  120. Silent
  121. Sing
  122. Singing
  123. Sizzling
  124. Slam
  125. Slamming
  126. Snap
  127. Snappy
  128. Snoring
  129. Snort
  130. Splashing
  131. Squawking
  132. Squeaky
  133. Stammer
  134. Stomp
  135. Storm
  136. Stuttering
  137. Tearing
  138. Thudding
  139. Thump
  140. Thumping
  141. Thunder
  142. Thundering
  143. Ticking
  144. Tingling
  145. Tinkling
  146. Twitter
  147. Twittering
  148. Wail
  149. Warbling
  150. Wheezing
  151. Whimper
  152. Whimpering
  153. Whine
  154. Whining
  155. Whir
  156. Whisper
  157. Whispering
  158. Whistle
  159. Whooping
  160. Yell
  161. Yelp

3. Touch Sensory Words

Touch words describe the texture of how something feels. They can also describe emotional feelings.

Examples of touch words:

  • Two minutes into the interview, I knew his abrasive personality would be an issue if we hired him.
  • With a forced smile, I put on the itchy Christmas sweater my grandmother bought me.
  • The Hot Pocket was scalding on the outside, but ice-cold in the middle.
Click here to see all 123 touch sensory words
  1. Abrasive
  2. Balmy
  3. Biting
  4. Boiling
  5. Breezy
  6. Bristly
  7. Bubbly
  8. Bubby
  9. Bumpy
  10. Burning
  11. Bushy
  12. Chilled
  13. Chilly
  14. Clammy
  15. Coarse
  16. Cold
  17. Cool
  18. Cottony
  19. Crawly
  20. Creepy
  21. Cuddly
  22. Cushioned
  23. Damp
  24. Dank
  25. Dirty
  26. Downy
  27. Drenched
  28. Dry
  29. Elastic
  30. Feathery
  31. Feverish
  32. Fine
  33. Fleshy
  34. Fluff
  35. Fluffy
  36. Foamy
  37. Fragile
  38. Freezing
  39. Furry
  40. Glassy
  41. Gluey
  42. Gooey
  43. Grainy
  44. Greasy
  45. Gritty
  46. Gushy
  47. Hairy
  48. Heavy
  49. Hot
  50. Humid
  51. Ice-Cold
  52. Icy
  53. Itchy
  54. Knobbed
  55. Leathery
  56. Light
  57. Lightweight
  58. Limp
  59. Lukewarm
  60. Lumpy
  61. Matted
  62. Metallic
  63. Moist
  64. Mushy
  65. Numbing
  66. Oily
  67. Plastic
  68. Pointed
  69. Powdery
  70. Pulpy
  71. Rocky
  72. Rough
  73. Rubbery
  74. Sandy
  75. Scalding
  76. Scorching
  77. Scratchy
  78. Scummy
  79. Serrated
  80. Shaggy
  81. Sharp
  82. Shivering
  83. Shivery
  84. Silky
  85. Slimy
  86. Slippery
  87. Sloppy
  88. Smooth
  89. Smothering
  90. Soapy
  91. Soft
  92. Sopping
  93. Soupy
  94. Splintery
  95. Spongy
  96. Springy
  97. Sputter
  98. Squashy
  99. Squeal
  100. Squishy
  101. Steamy
  102. Steely
  103. Sticky
  104. Stifled
  105. Stifling
  106. Stinging
  107. Stony
  108. Stubby
  109. Tangled
  110. Tapered
  111. Tender
  112. Tepid
  113. Thick
  114. Thin
  115. Thorny
  116. Tickling
  117. Tough
  118. Unsanitary
  119. Velvety
  120. Warm
  121. Waxy
  122. Wet
  123. Woolly

4. Taste Sensory Words

Taste words are interesting. Though they can describe food, they’re often used in comparisons and metaphors.

Examples of taste words:

  • It’s a bittersweet situation.
  • Her zesty personality caught Karl’s eye.
  • The scrumptious jalapeno poppers comforted Karl after his bitter rejection.
Click here to see all 51 taste sensory words
  1. Acidic
  2. Appetizing
  3. Bitter
  4. Bittersweet
  5. Bland
  6. Buttery
  7. Charred
  8. Contaminated
  9. Creamy
  10. Crispy
  11. Delectable
  12. Delicious
  13. Doughy
  14. Earthy
  15. Fermented
  16. Flavorful
  17. Flavorless
  18. Floury
  19. Garlicky
  20. Gingery
  21. Gritty
  22. Hearty
  23. Juicy
  24. Luscious
  25. Medicinal
  26. Mellow
  27. Melted
  28. Nauseating
  29. Nutritious
  30. Nutty
  31. Palatable
  32. Peppery
  33. Pickled
  34. Piquant
  35. Raw
  36. Refreshing
  37. Rich
  38. Ripe
  39. Salted
  40. Savory
  41. Scrumptious
  42. Stale
  43. Sugary
  44. Syrupy
  45. Tangy
  46. Tart
  47. Tasteless
  48. Unripe
  49. Vinegary
  50. Yummy
  51. Zesty

5. Smell Sensory Words

Words related to smell describe — yes, you guessed it — how things smell. Often underutilized, sensory words connected with smell can be very effective.

Examples of smell words:

  • The pungent smell was unmistakable: someone in this elevator was wearing Axe Body Spray.
  • No matter the expiration date, it was clear from its rancid stench the milk had gone bad.
  • The flowery aroma was a welcome change after the elevator and milk incidents.
Click here to see all 47 smell sensory words
  1. Ambrosial
  2. Antiseptic
  3. Aroma
  4. Aromatic
  5. Briny
  6. Citrusy
  7. Decayed
  8. Decomposed
  9. Doggy
  10. Fetid
  11. Floral
  12. Flowery
  13. Foul-smelling
  14. Fragrant
  15. Gamy
  16. Gaseous
  17. Horrid
  18. Inodorous
  19. Malodorous
  20. Mephitic
  21. Musky
  22. Musty
  23. Odiferous
  24. Odor
  25. Odorless
  26. Old
  27. Perfumed
  28. Piney
  29. Polluted
  30. Pungent
  31. Putrid
  32. Rancid
  33. Rank
  34. Redolent
  35. Reeking
  36. Scent
  37. Scented
  38. Sickly
  39. Skunky
  40. Smell
  41. Smoky
  42. Stagnant
  43. Stench
  44. Stinky
  45. Sweaty
  46. Tempting
  47. Whiff

Bonus: Taste and Smell Sensory Words

Because they’re closely related, some sensory words can be used for both taste and smell. Examples: fruity, minty, and tantalizing.

Click here to see all 16 taste & smell sensory words
  1. Acrid
  2. Burnt
  3. Fishy
  4. Fresh
  5. Fruity
  6. Lemony
  7. Minty
  8. Moldy
  9. Mouth-watering
  10. Rotten
  11. Salty
  12. Sour
  13. Spicy
  14. Spoiled
  15. Sweet
  16. Tantalizing

Next, we’ll look at a few real-world examples of sensory details.

Sensory Details: Examples in the Wild

Imagine the following headline came across your Twitter feed:

How to Avoid Using Boring Stock Photo Images in Your Content

Would you click it?

Better question…

Could you read the headline without falling asleep?

The answers are probably “no” and “heck no.”

Now imagine you saw this headline:

Sensory Words in Headlines

Much better, right?

The simple addition of the sensory word “cringeworthy” changes the tone of the entire headline. Instead of yawning, you’re thinking of an awkward or embarrassing moment you really don’t want to relive.

Let’s look at a few more modern-day examples of sharp people using sensory language to spruce up their content:

Using Sensory Words in Author Bios

I’ll pick on me for this one.

Here’s one of my old author bios:

Kevin J. Duncan is the Editor of Smart Blogger, where he helps writers learn the skills they need to land writing gigs that pay.

Now look at the author bio my friend Henneke wrote for Writer’s Block: 27 Techniques to Overcome It Forever:

Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle.

My bio is devoid of sensory words (or any interesting words at all, if we’re being honest).

Henneke’s is chock full of them.

Her bio is interesting.

Mine is boring.

The lesson? Add at least one sensory word to your author bio.

Using Sensory Words in Social Media Profiles

Some people opt for brevity when writing their social media profiles, and that’s fine.

But if you want your Twitter profile (or Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media profile) to stand out from the crowd, sprinkle in a sensory word or two.

Like so:

Sensory Words in Twitter Profiles

Mel Wicks is a veteran copywriter who knows a thing or two about the effectiveness of descriptive details, so she uses them to spice up her Twitter profile.

Here’s an example from my badly-neglected Instagram account:

Sensory Words in Instagram Profile

“Enchanting” and “adorably-jubilant” are wonderful sensory words — so wonderful, it’s a shame they’re wasted on a profile no one sees.

Look at your own profiles and see if there’s a place to add a sensory word or two. They’ll help your profile jump off the screen.

Heck, see if you can use enchanting and adorably-jubilant.

They deserve to be seen.

Using Sensory Words in Introductions

The opening lines of your content are so important.

If you’re a student, your opening sets the tone for your teacher (who we both know is dying to use his red pen).

If you’re an author, your opening can be the difference between someone buying your book or putting it back on the shelf in favor of one of those Twilight books (probably).

And if you’re a blogger, writer, content marketer, or business; your opening can hook the reader (increasing dwell time, which is great in Google’s eyes) or send them scurrying for the “back” button.

It’s why we put such an emphasis on introductions here at Smart Blogger.

Sometimes our openings hook you with a question.

Sometimes we strike a note of empathy or (like this post) focus on searcher intent.

And sometimes we give you a heaping helping of sensory words:

Imagine you’re sitting in a lounge chair on the beach, staring out over the glittering sea, the ocean breeze ruffling your hair, listening to the slow, steady rhythm of the waves.

In the above opening for How to Become a Freelance Writer, Starting from Scratch, Jon Morrow uses sensory language to set a scene for the reader.

And it’s highly, highly effective.

Using Sensory Words in Email Subject Lines

Like you, your readers are flooded with emails.

And with open rates in a steady decline, people are trying anything and everything to make their email subject lines stand out:

  • Emojis;
  • Capitalized words;
  • All lowercase letters;
  • Two exclamation points;
  • Clickbait that would make even BuzzFeed go, “that’s too far, man.”

You name it, people are trying it.

Want a simpler, far-more-effective way to help your emails stand out from the crowd?

Add a sensory word.

Brian Dean loves to include words like “boom” in his subjects:

Sensory Words in Email Subjects

The folks at AppSumo and Sumo (formerly SumoMe) regularly feature descriptive words in their subjects and headlines.

Here’s one example:

Sensory Words in Email Subjects

And sensory language appears in most everything Henneke writes, including her subject lines.

In this one she also uses an emoji related to her sensory word. Very clever:

Sensory Words in Email Subjects

Now that we’ve covered several examples, let’s dig a bit deeper…

Let’s discuss some practical steps you can take that will make adding figurative language to your own writing style a breeze:

How Descriptive Details Can Pack Your Writing With Sensory Language

If you’ve taken a good English or creative writing class, you’ve probably been told a time or two to “show, don’t tell.”

This means you should create an engaging experience for your audience; not just tell them what you want them to know.

You accomplish this by using descriptive writing that conveys sensations and lets readers experience your words (rather than simply read them).

And how do you do that, exactly?

Ask yourself these five questions when you’re writing:

#1. What Do You See?

It isn’t enough to tell your readers there was a scary house in your neighborhood when you were a child. Describe the house to them in vivid detail.

What shade of gray was it?

Were the doors boarded up?

Precisely how many ghostly figures did you see staring at you from the upstairs bedroom windows, and how many are standing behind you right now?

Paint a mental picture for your readers.

#2. What Do You Hear?

We listen to uptempo songs to push us through cardio workouts. Many of us listen to rainfall when we’re trying to sleep. Some of us listen to Justin Bieber when we want to punish our neighbors.

Want to transplant readers into your literary world?

Talk about the drip, drip, drip of the faucet.

Mention the squeaking floors beneath your feet.

Describe the awful music coming from your next-door-neighbor’s house.

#3. How Does it Feel?

Touch sensory words can convey both tactile and emotional sensations.

Can you describe to the reader how something feels when touched? Is it smooth or rough? Round or flat? Is it covered in goo or is it goo-less?

Paint a picture for your reader so they can touch what you’re touching.

The same goes for emotions. Help the reader feel what you (or your character) are feeling. Draw them in.

#4. What Does it Taste Like?

Does the beach air taste salty? Is the roaring fire so intense you can taste the smoke? Is the smell of your roommate’s tuna fish sandwich so strong you can taste it from across the room?

Tell your audience.

Be descriptive.

Make them taste the fishiness.

#5. How Does it Smell?

It wasn’t a basement you walked into — it was a musty, moldy basement.

And you didn’t simply enjoy your Mom’s homemade lasagna. You inhaled the aromatic scents of sauce, cheese, and basil.

Evoking the sense of smell is possibly the most effective way to pull readers out of their world and into yours.

So when you sit down to write, ask yourself if it’s possible to describe how something smells. And if you can? Do it.

The Massive Sensory Words List: 583 (and Counting) Descriptive Words to Supercharge Your Writing With Sensory Language

Once you’ve asked and answered the five questions above, your writing will be packed with sensory details.

In time, you’ll build up your own massive list of sensory words you can reference and sprinkle throughout your work (no thesaurus needed!).

But in the meantime, here’s my list.

Bookmark them.

Print them.

Use them often:

SIGHT WORDS SOUND WORDS
Angular Babble
Azure Bang
Billowy Barking
Black Bawled
Bleary Bawling
Bloated Bellow
Blonde Blare
Blue Blaring
Blurred Bleat
Blushing Boom
Branching Booming
Bright Bray
Brilliant Buzz
Broad Buzzing
Brown Cackle
Brunette Cackling
Bulbous Chatter
Bulky Chattering
Camouflaged Cheer
Chubby Chiming
Circular Chirping
Colorful Chuckle
Colorless Clamor
Colossal Clang
Contoured Clanging
Cosmic Clap
Craggy Clapping
Crimson Clicking
Crinkled Clink
Crooked Clinking
Crowded Cooing
Crystalline Coughing
Curved Crackle
Dark Crackling
Dazzling Crashing
Deep Creak
Dim Croaking
Dingy Crow
Disheveled Crunch
Distinct Crunching
Drab Crunchy
Dreary Cry
Dull Crying
Dusty Deafening
Elegant Distorted
Enchanting Dripping
Engaging Ear-piercing
Enormous Earsplitting
Faded Exploding
Fancy Faint
Fat Fizzing
Filthy Gagging
Flashy Gasping
Flat Giggle
Flickering Giggling
Foggy Grate
Forked Grating
Freckled Growl
Fuzzy Grumble
Gargantuan Grunt
Gaudy Grunting
Gigantic Guffaw
Ginormous Gurgle
Glamorous Gurgling
Gleaming Hanging
Glimpse Hiss
Glistening Hissing
Glitter Honking
Glittering Howl
Globular Hubbub
Gloomy Hum
Glossy Humming
Glowing Hush
Gold Jabber
Graceful Jangle
Gray Jangling
Green Laughing
Grotesque Moaning
Hazy Monotonous
Hollow Mooing
Homely Muffled
Huge Mumble
Illuminated Mumbling
Immense Murmur
Indistinct Mutter
Ivory Muttering
Knotty Noisy
Lacy Peeping
Lanky Piercing
Large Ping
Lavender Pinging
Lean Plopping
Lithe Pop
Little Purring
Lofty Quacking
Long Quiet
Low Rant
Malnourished Rapping
Maroon Rasping
Massive Raucous
Miniature Rave
Misshapen Ringing
Misty Roar
Motionless Roaring
Mottled Rumble
Mountainous Rumbling
Muddy Rustle
Murky Rustling
Narrow Scratching
Obtuse Scream
Olive Screaming
Opaque Screech
Orange Screeching
Oval Serene
Pale Shout
Peered Shouting
Petite Shrieking
Pink Shrill
Portly Sigh
Pristine Silent
Prodigious Sing
Purple Singing
Quaint Sizzling
Radiant Slam
Rectangular Slamming
Red Snap
Reddish Snappy
Rippling Snoring
Rotund Snort
Round Splashing
Ruby Squawking
Ruddy Squeaky
Rusty Stammer
Sabotaged Stomp
Shadowy Storm
Shallow Stuttering
Shapeless Tearing
Sheer Thudding
Shimmering Thump
Shiny Thumping
Short Thunder
Silver Thundering
Skinny Ticking
Small Tingling
Smudged Tinkling
Soaring Twitter
Sparkling Twittering
Sparkly Wail
Spherical Warbling
Spotless Wheezing
Spotted Whimper
Square Whimpering
Steep Whine
Stormy Whining
Straight Whir
Strange Whisper
Striped Whispering
Sunny Whistle
Swooping Whooping
Tall Yell
Tapering Yelp
Tarnished
Teeny-tiny
Tiny
Towering
Translucent
Transparent
Triangular
Turquoise
Twinkling
Twisted
Ugly
Unsightly
Unusual
Vibrant
Vivid
Weird
White
Wide
Wiry
Wispy
Wizened
Wrinkled
Wrinkly
Yellow
TOUCH WORDS TASTE WORDS
Abrasive Acidic
Balmy Appetizing
Biting Bitter
Boiling Bittersweet
Breezy Bland
Bristly Buttery
Bubbly Charred
Bubby Contaminated
Bumpy Creamy
Burning Crispy
Bushy Delectable
Chilled Delicious
Chilly Doughy
Clammy Earthy
Coarse Fermented
Cold Flavorful
Cool Flavorless
Cottony Floury
Crawly Garlicky
Creepy Gingery
Cuddly Gritty
Cushioned Hearty
Damp Juicy
Dank Luscious
Dirty Medicinal
Downy Mellow
Drenched Melted
Dry Nauseating
Elastic Nutritious
Feathery Nutty
Feverish Palatable
Fine Peppery
Fleshy Pickled
Fluff Piquant
Fluffy Raw
Foamy Refreshing
Fragile Rich
Freezing Ripe
Furry Salty/Salted
Glassy Savory
Gluey Scrumptious
Gooey Stale
Grainy Sugary
Greasy Syrupy
Gritty Tangy
Gushy Tart
Hairy Tasteless
Heavy Unripe
Hot Vinegary
Humid Yummy
Ice-Cold Zesty
Icy
Itchy
Knobbed
Leathery
Light
Lightweight
Limp
Lukewarm
Lumpy
Matted
Metallic
Moist
Mushy
Numbing
Oily
Plastic
Pointed
Powdery
Pulpy
Rocky
Rough
Rubbery
Sandy
Scalding
Scorching
Scratchy
Scummy
Serrated
Shaggy
Sharp
Shivering
Shivery
Silky
Slimy
Slippery
Sloppy
Smooth
Smothering
Soapy
Soft
Sopping
Soupy
Splintery
Spongy
Springy
Sputter
Squashy
Squeal
Squishy
Steamy
Steely
Sticky
Stifled
Stifling
Stinging
Stony
Stubby
Tangled
Tapered
Tender
Tepid
Thick
Thin
Thorny
Tickling
Tough
Unsanitary
Velvety
Warm
Waxy
Wet
Woolly
SMELL WORDS TASTE & SMELL WORDS
Ambrosial Acrid
Antiseptic Burnt
Aroma Fishy
Aromatic Fresh
Briny Fruity
Citrusy Lemony
Decayed Minty
Decomposed Moldy
Doggy Mouth-watering
Fetid Rotten
Floral Salty
Flowery Sour
Foul-smelling Spicy
Fragrant Spoiled
Gamy Sweet
Gaseous Tantalizing
Horrid
Inodorous
Malodorous
Mephitic
Musky
Musty
Odiferous
Odor
Odorless
Old
Perfumed
Piney
Polluted
Pungent
Putrid
Rancid
Rank
Redolent
Reeking
Scent
Scented
Sickly
Skunky
Smell
Smoky
Stagnant
Stench
Stinky
Sweaty
Tempting
Whiff

This post is part of Smart Blogger's

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Are You Ready to Unleash the Power of Sensory Details?

It’s time to say goodbye.

Goodbye to lifeless words that sit on the page.

Goodbye to indifferent readers ready to move on to something, anything, else.

You now know why sensory details are so effective. You know how to sprinkle descriptive words throughout your content. And you now have a massive, ever-growing list of sensory words to bookmark and come back to again and again.

Variations of the following quote have been attributed to everyone from Carl W. Buehner to Maya Angelou, but regardless of who said it, and how they said it, it’s true:

“People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s time to make your readers feel.

Are you ready?

Then let’s do this thing.

Kevin J. Duncan

Kevin J. Duncan

Living the dream as Editor-in-Chief for Smart Blogger. Neglectful owner of Be A Better Blogger. Catch him online at @kevinjduncan and @smartbloggerhq, or at his personal website.

39 thoughts on “583 Sensory Words to Take Your Writing from Bland to Brilliant”

  1. Hey, this was a bomb!. thanks for these words! very powerful!! I am always looking for ways to convey imagery and make my speakings and writings come alive. Thanks for this!

  2. Thank you so much, Kevin. I was going to insert as many jubliants and enchantments as I could but that would tell you more about me than you.
    Sincere thanks as I am in the midst of a fictional cozy which is as flat as a pancake and needs zesting and zinging up.
    Allow me to wish you and yours a very Happy Easter before I leap back to my scribbling in order to elevate the prose, thanks to your help, to Shakespearian levels.

    1. Hi Zara,

      You’re welcome, and thank YOU for the very amusing comment. You worked in 7 or 8 sensory words. Nicely done. 🙂

      Good luck on your writing project. I have no doubt you’ll reach Shakespearean levels!

  3. Fantastic article Kevin , thank you.
    I’m an English teacher in Vietnam and I’m forever telling my students to use sensory words like these but I forget to use them myself in my new blog 🙈. But this article reminded me to do just that !!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thank you for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed it.

      I was a teacher in a former life, so lots of respect for what you do. Hopefully this post can act as a resource for your students too! 🙂

  4. Hey Kevin,
    There I was, avidly reading your cosmic post with all those dazzlingly scrumptious sensory words, when I stumbled across my own Twitter profile! You certainly put some oomph into my day and I’ll be bookmarking your dictionary of words for future reference. Thanks for the massive effort.
    Cheers, Mel

    1. Hey Mel,

      Haha. You’re very welcome. To give you a little insight into how I (sometimes) gather sources:

      I hopped into Twitter and clicked the link so I could see all of my followers. Then I scrolled and scrolled, looking to find someone with a profile that used sensory words.

      And then I found you. “You can stop searching,” I told myself. “You found the one.” 😉

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Mel. I’m really hopeful we’ll get a lot of traction with this one!

  5. Perfect timing, Kevin! Your post tiptoed into my inbox yesterday, then landed smack at the top of our CMC FB thread today. (How could I resist reading?) Besides, it’s brilliant. ‘Bookmark-worthy,’ as Jon said. So now you’ve thrown down the gauntlet: how many sensory words can I weave into my sample post for CMC as I filter the fluff out in my first edit. Can’t wait to see. My thanks!

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Glad the timing was perfect for you. (And thank you for the kind words.)

      “Bookmark worthy” is certainly what I was going for! Wanted this to be a resource bloggers, writers, and students could bookmark and reference over and over. 🙂

      Good luck on your CMC sample post! Hope this post does indeed help you.

  6. Awesome post. I am completely agree with all of your points. Listening to your users and other product creators can give an idea on how to start things and make your product successful. This is so helpful to me.

  7. Amazingly detailed post and just what I was looking for. Not just for my non-fiction posts but for my fiction writing as well. Thanks Kevin

  8. Michael Gleeson

    Hello Kevin,

    I didn’t realise the psychology behind sensory words but it makes a lot of sense. Really useful stuff. Along with Jon’s list of power words, this is definitely a piercing combo.

    I need to read more of those great writers to soak up their sensory rhymes and dancing prose. It’s very handy to have a quick reference list like this too. Thanking you…

  9. FANTASTIC! I’ll be sharing this in my writing groups, thank you! I teach an intuitive writing process and we’re always playing with how to feel into the words. What a GREAT resource!

  10. Kevin, reading the phrase: “People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.” hit me like a thunderbolt! I’ve never heard words so true. As a fiction writer, that sentence, followed by an extensive list of sensory words, is of tremendous help to me. I’m a new member of your blog community and thrilled to be one. Your blogs are an amazing source of information. Thank you.

  11. Thank you Kevin,
    Using these words and the power words makes me think I shouldn’t have to work as hard as doing things without them. I appreciate you helping me get some of my time back in this incredible discovery you delivered to me today!

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