English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm interested in finding out two things:

  1. Why is sensical not a valid antonym for nonsensical?
  2. Is there an antonym of nonsensical that can be used instead? I haven't found any in dictionary searches.
share|improve this question
None of the suggestions have quite the 'silly tone', if you will, that I enjoy in nonsensical and sensical; however, I've gone with meaningful as the best alternate. – matadur Aug 22 '11 at 17:17
up vote 6 down vote accepted
  1. You might get some insight from this...I am suggesting that "nonsensical" is an unpaired word like "unwittingly".
  2. Possible antonyms:
    • sensible
    • coherent
    • logical
    • intelligible
    • meaningful
share|improve this answer
Meaningful meets my need perfectly, thanks! – matadur Aug 22 '11 at 13:11
How is "unwittingly" an "unpaired word"? – Hot Licks Apr 20 '15 at 22:31
You're right, @HotLicks, I guess I should have looked up "wittingly" before I said that. – JeffSahol Apr 21 '15 at 14:10

"Sensical" is in fact a valid antonym for nonsense. It is a word, and you can use it. It is in the Oxford English Dictionary. It's use is traced back to 1797. It is equated to "sensible." My version is the 23rd US Printing, 1984 the Micrograph edition. You may find the word on page 2,728.

share|improve this answer

Sensical has not yet become an "official" word in the English language, which would be why you can't use it. Nonsense is a word, therefore nonsensical can used to describe something of nonsense. However, sense has different meanings and doesn't have an adjective for something of sense. English language speakers generally do not use sense as an antonym of nonsense. Possible antonyms of nonsensical include logical, rational, or reasonable.

share|improve this answer
I think you'll find we do use sense as the antonym of nonsense. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 20 '11 at 8:41
I suppose that could be a cultural preference. In America, we say something makes sense, but not that it is sense. However we do say something is nonsense. – Xandria Aug 20 '11 at 19:47

In fields like logic, philosophy, or linguistics, where you want word pairings like sense/nonsense to be very precise, the term 'sensical' actually is in use, because 'sensible' is already used to mean 'pertaining to the senses' and having such ambiguity isn't really permissible in such context. Thus in ordinary writing, or writing in other fields, it probably ought to be avoided because it strikes one as awkward, but there are certainly circumstances in which its use is necessary, the dictionary be damned.

share|improve this answer
You don't have to throw out the dictionary for this one. See english.stackexchange.com/a/240581/161876 – Luke Gedeon Feb 23 at 14:07

Depending on the context, meaningful, rational, sensible, relevant, pertinent, judicious, could be acceptable antonyms of "nonsensical".

share|improve this answer
Thanks, I went with meaningful! – matadur Aug 22 '11 at 17:14

I've always considered nonsensical differs from nonsense in that the former is ordinarily applied to things which are either expected to make sense, or which superficially appear to but in fact don't. Whereas we don't necessarilly expect much from plain old nonsense.

So I suggest cogent (clear, logical, convincing) is a good antonym in many contexts.

share|improve this answer
That's the definition I was looking for - something that appears to and does make sense. Cogent is a fitting antonym, but meaningful fit my sentence better. Thanks! – matadur Aug 22 '11 at 17:13
@matadur: If you had a specific sentence in mind where you wanted a word to "fit", you should have put that in the question. Without proper context, we will all struggle to find the most suitable word, and future visitors will be less likely to find either the question or answers useful. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '11 at 17:28

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.