early 15c., "carnal, concerning the body" (in distinction from the spirit or intellect);" mid-15c., "of, affecting, or pertaining to the (physical) senses" (a meaning now obsolete), from Old French sensual, sensuel (15c.) and directly from Late Latin sensualis "endowed with feeling" (see sensuality).
The specific meaning "connected with gratification of the senses" is from late 15c., especially "lewd, unchaste, devoted to voluptuous pleasures." Related: Sensually.
updated on May 06, 2022