Italians often get confused by sensible and sensitive. If I tell them
He's a sensible boy; he studies hard, saves his money, and plans ahead.
They are quite bewildered. To them, sensible is indistinguishable from the Italian "sensibile" which means impressionable, easily moved to tears and sentimental.
È un ragazzo sensibile = He's a sensitive boy/young man
Online Etymology Dictionary states that originally, sensible meant
late 14c., "capable of sensation or feeling;" also "capable of being sensed or felt, perceptible to the senses," hence "easily understood; logical, reasonable," from Late Latin sensibilis "having feeling, perceptible by the senses," from sensus, past participle of sentire "perceive, feel"
Then sometime in the early 15th century, the meaning of sensible evolved to:
"having good sense, capable of reasoning, discerning, clever," mid-15c. Of clothes, shoes, etc., "practical rather than fashionable" it is attested from 1855.
Meanwhile the word, sensitive with its more modern interpretation (as far as I could tell) has origins in the early 19th century
sensitive(adj) Meaning "easily affected" (with reference to mental feelings) first recorded 1816; meaning "having intense physical sensation" is from 1849.
Why did this shift occur? The original Latin term, sensibilis, and consequently sensible, could have continued meaning “capable of sensation and feeling” and “to perceive” i.e., to achieve understanding of; apprehend. What happened in the 15th century that wise, common sense and sound judgement replaced the original meaning of sensible?
I am bored of telling Italian students and friends that sensible is a false friend. Is there a better explanation?
Or am I to suppose that it is William Shakespeare's fault (or merit) again?!