c. 1500, from Late Latin sensatus "gifted with sense," from sensus "perception, feeling, undertaking, meaning" (see sense (n.)). From 1937 in sociology. As a verb from 1650s.
Entries linking to sensate
c. 1400, "faculty of perception," also "meaning, import, interpretation" (especially of Holy Scripture), from Old French sens "one of the five senses; meaning; wit, understanding" (12c.) and directly from Latin sensus "perception, feeling, undertaking, meaning," from sentire "perceive, feel, know," probably a figurative use of a literally meaning "to find one's way," or "to go mentally," from PIE root *sent- "to go" (source also of Old High German sinnan "to go, travel, strive after, have in mind, perceive," German Sinn "sense, mind," Old English sið "way, journey," Old Irish set, Welsh hynt "way"). Application to any one of the external or outward senses (touch, sight, hearing, etc.) in English first recorded 1520s.
A certain negro tribe has a special word for "see;" but only one general word for "hear," "touch," "smell," and "taste." It matters little through which sense I realize that in the dark I have blundered into a pig-sty. In French "sentir" means to smell, to touch, and to feel, all together. [Erich M. von Hornbostel, "Die Einheit der Sinne" ("The Unity of the Senses"), 1927]
Meaning "that which is wise" is from c. 1600. Meaning "capacity for perception and appreciation" is from c. 1600 (as in sense of humor, attested by 1783, sense of shame, 1640s).
Meaning "irrational, maniacle, lacking or deprived of mental sense" is from 1520s; meaning "lacking or deprived of moral sense, unfeeling" is from 1550s. Insensate means "not capable of feeling sensation," often "inanimate;" insensible means "lacking the power to feel with the senses," hence, often, "unconscious;" insensitive means "having little or no reaction to what is perceived by one's senses," often "tactless." Related: Insensately; insensateness.