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For the senses, we have:

  • flavor for taste
  • aroma/odor/scent for smell
  • sound for hearing
  • ____? for touch/feel
  • ____? for sight/see

So one tastes a flavor, smells an aroma, hears a sound, feels a(n) _____, and sees a(n) _____. For the former, part of me wants to say texture, but I feel that is too specific; for the latter, I want to use visual or sight, but but does that make sense, seeing a visual or a sight?

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    I can’t keep up with the edits. You keep adding my answers. :(
    – tchrist
    Feb 24, 2013 at 4:11
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    @tchrist, all done now :) Sorry about that, I meant to say "touch" originally but I said "hearing" for some reason, I don't know what's wrong with my brain at this late hour haha! Feb 24, 2013 at 4:12
  • @MichaelLai Yes, but I'm more concerned about the word that describes that aesthetic of the pattern produced by the light, that is the aesthetic of the "image". Jul 23, 2013 at 0:13
  • But in the same way that you used odor and sound, which I presume to be neutral words, light is also just the stimulus provided to our senses isn't it? Jul 23, 2013 at 0:27
  • @MichaelLai But "odor" isn't a stimulant... when you smell there are receptors in the nose that pick up tiny particles of what you are smelling— tiny particles that have been released into the air and float into your nose (which is why you can't smell heavy things like metal).. So with that logic particles are to smell as light is to sight, but odor is a word that describes the sensation/aesthetic experienced in the brain when certain particles are smaller together. In the same way I want to know the word for the beauty in the sight when certain light waves are mixed together to form an image. Jul 23, 2013 at 15:36

7 Answers 7

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The sense verbs are an interesting paradigm. English has three types of sense verb (with a lot of overlap), and a number of derived nouns. Two of the verb classes differ in whether they're volitional, and the other one is an experiential sense with special "Flip" syntax.

One type of verb is the Non-Volitional: hear, see, smell, taste, touch/feel
Another is the Volitional: listen, look, smell, taste, touch/feel

Hearing: You listen to something on purpose, but you can hear it by accident.
Vision: You look at something on purpose, but you can see it by accident.
Verbs for the other three senses don't vary; you can smell, taste, or touch/feel on purpose or not.

The third type is the Flip verbs: sound, look, smell, taste, feel.
Again the three chemical/kinesthetic senses don't change in form,
though only feel works as a Flip verb:

That looks tasty / sounds flat / smells sour / tastes delicious / feels weird.

The subject of a Flip verb is not the experiencer, but rather whatever is causing the sensation being experienced. The experiencer is normally not mentioned, but if it is, it occurs in a preposition phrase (most likely to me).

Interestingly, only hearing — the sense used by language — gets to have 3 distinct sense verbs: hear, listen, and sound.

As far as nouns go, one can speak of a look and a sight (respectively from look and see), as well as a glimpse, a vision, an appearance, a sighting, an image — and no doubt many more — for vision alone. This is what a thesaurus is for.

Touch is underrepresented in nouns; adjectives are more likely. But one does speak of something having a feel, occasionally a feeling — a word which can be generalized to cover any metaphoric, psychological, or spiritual sensation, whether experienced or not, as in

I had a feeling he was going to betray us.

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    This answer is great! I +1, but I haven't accepted it yet, in the case that somebody else knows an actual word that can go in the blank, (I understand there might not be a word, in which case after a while I will just accept the best answer (currently yours)) Feb 24, 2013 at 16:09
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    +1 for introducing me to the concept of volitional verbs. I was looking for a word to pin on such verbs.
    – Joe Z.
    Feb 24, 2013 at 16:26
  • +1 for your answer. I simply add that other senses besides "feeling" involve metaphoric, psychological, and spiritual sensation. When we say "I see," in addition to the strictly sensate (your "non-volitional) denotation we can also be saying "I understand." Similarly, with the strictly sensate "I hear," we can also be saying something else. Take the teenager who finally accedes to empty the garbage after his mother has asked him for the sixth time. "I hear you, Mom." He used the non-volitional "hear", but he MEANT the volitional "listen." Jun 5, 2013 at 16:28
  • You've already mentioned "feeling," though I would add the popular phrase "I feel you, man." The same notion applies to smell: "I smell something rotten here," meaning something's "fishy" or suspicious or suspect. Taste, too, has its "He left a bad taste in my mouth," which has nothing to do with the non-volitional (unless you're a cannibal!) but is a volitional, non-sensate "He repulses me in some way, and left me with a lingering and unpleasant aftertaste" (as it were). When you said the "sense" verbs constitute an interesting paradigm, you said a "mouthful" (and it tasted pretty good!) Jun 5, 2013 at 16:44
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    Since virtually all metaphors are extensions of the human body, and since our (named) senses are the only way we receive information, sense words are overwhelmingly common in metaphors, and conversely, metaphoric usages are overwhelmingly common among sense words. Jun 5, 2013 at 17:08
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Besides already-mentioned feel (“A quality of an object experienced by touch”), feeling (“Sensation, particularly through the skin”), and texture (“The feel or shape of a surface or substance; the smoothness, roughness, softness, etc. of something”) (of which the latter is less applicable), consider the following.
palpability, “The quality of being palpable”, that is, of being “capable of being touched, felt or handled; touchable, tangible”
tactility, “The ability to feel pressure or pain through touch”

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    Texture was my first thought as well.
    – Thomas
    Feb 24, 2013 at 11:00
  • Texture works perfectly well there. Jun 5, 2013 at 15:58
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That word is sound. A flavor is what you taste, and aroma what you smell, and a sound is what you hear.


EDIT: Ok, after your edit, it now calls for something’s feel. Or again, its touch.

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    I'm sorry I asked the wrong question haha :( I knew this, I feel dumb, I'm editing it now... sorry haha Feb 24, 2013 at 4:08
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Touch/Feel the surface of an object. The sense of touch requires something physical and solid unlike smell and hearing and it is not interchangeable with feel which can also express a state of being as in "He feels lonely/hot/tired etc..." You cannot help but feel thirsty, hungry etc...

Touch is a deliberate action; feel can be both a voluntary and involuntary action. So you need a different noun from surface. May I suggest feel a sensation? And I prefer @John Lawler's see an image, or see a vision.

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I think John's answer is pretty complete. In short, I'd say these are the two words you're looking for:

  • see: look
  • touch/feel: feel

The phrase "Look and feel" immediately comes to mind.

I may be biased by working in the software industry - I'm not sure if this phrase is actually more widespread, but I imagine it evolved the other way around with the industry picking it up because of its usage elsewhere.

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"Feel" is a very general, fuzzy word. Even when strictly literal, sensations include the tactile sensations of texture and pressure, thermal sensations, proprioceptive sensations, and I'm sure the list goes on. Add the common metaphoric uses for the verb, and the list of object categories expands greatly.

For a word that is so general, "feel a sensation" seems to be the best fit.

As already mentioned, "see an image" is a good fit.

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SENSATION for touch/feel

I can feel this sensation

VISION for sight/see

The vision was a sight to behold

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