I am looking for a word similar to behold and hark which applies to calling attention to or attending with senses to some phenomenon using any combination of sensory methods/channels (light, sound, touch, pressure, temperature, vibration, smell, taste) e.g. "be-sense", as in "Be-sense this peculiar animal", "Are you be-sensing that?" or "they be-sensed the asteroid impact without knowing what it was".

An earlier question hark behold smell asked if there was an olfactory equivalent of behold (visual sense) and hark (auditory-sense).

This question broaches the topic but doesn't address my specific question.

I was hoping to use behold until I read in this forum that it tends to be used exclusively for visual sensing.

I wish to exclude words which have cognitive connotations such as know, ken, perceive, notice.

As suggested by FumbleFingers the word sense on its own is technically a good fit but to me has connotations of subtlety e.g. "they sensed that something was not quite right".

I am also looking for a word that implies active concentration rather than passive registration in the manner of "he looked at" rather than "he saw", "she listened to" rather than "she heard", " we be-sensed" rather than "we sensed".

  • 1
    Perhaps the verb you want is really just sense for the more general context. But that would be an odd word to use in an imperative, where experience might work better. Oct 30, 2014 at 15:31
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    – Dan Bron
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:33
  • @FumbleFingers. Yes "sense" is the appropriate meaning but like you say odd as an imperative. Experience is good as in "come and experience this thuderstorm" but doesnt exclude cognitive activity e.g. "that interview was an unpleasant experience".
    – steveOw
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:56
  • @Dan Bron. Good suggestion but doesnt exclude the cognitive e.g. "did you notice the price of fish today?".
    – steveOw
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:58
  • I think the suggestion sense is perfectly fine. It's not that odd as an imperative, and most of your examples are not imperative anyway ("did you sense that?" and "they sensed the asteroid impact" are utterly reasonable).
    – John Y
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:30

5 Answers 5


Perceive can refer to all senses:

  • To become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing.
  • Good suggestion but to me perception involves some cognitive analysis of patterns and fitting to existing mental categories rather than just registration of sensations. I want the any-sense equivalent of "Look at that!" rather than "Can you see the rabbit face in that cloud".
    – steveOw
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:50
  • You mean you are looking for a term suggesting a sort of 'passive perception'?
    – user66974
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:54
  • Not perception but pre-perception, "registration" perhaps. For me "perception" involves low-level cognitive interpretation.
    – steveOw
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:17
  • @steveOw: I think you're splitting hairs. In lay speech, perceive can mean as "little" as sense.
    – John Y
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:25
  • @John Y. I get your point but I want to exclude some of the unwanted things that "perceive" can mean in order to avoid ambiguity.
    – steveOw
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:38

Witness. verb: to have knowledge of (a development) from observation or experience.

Although 'Witness' also means to see an event amongst other things, I believe you could use it at the beginning of a sentence regarding a physical sense, meaning; 'now pay attention to this'

'Witness, as the odour of fresh baked bread fills the room.'
'Witness the reactions, as the blindfolded test subjects are touched.'

You can also use 'Bear witness' at the beginning of a sentence which would imply more of a command than a suggestion.



pay attention to; take notice of.


What about: "I give you..."

It's not quite "be-sense" but I think it serves the same purpose as what the original question is asking. As a matter of fact, I came here with the same question and after reading all of the responses this is what occurred to me and is what I will be using in my particular case.



From your examples:

"Notice this peculiar animal",
"Are you noticing that?" or
"They noticed the asteroid impact without knowing what it was"

From Merriam-Webster:

notice (2 of 2)


noticed; noticing; notices

3 b : to become aware of (something or someone) : to take notice of

No one noticed her arrival. I think Mr. Carver is showing us at least part of the truth about a segment of American experience few of our writers trouble to notice. —Irving Howe

4 : to give a formal notice to

intransitive verb

: to become aware of something : to take notice

Only one middle-aged customer seems not to notice. —Carol Wallace He did some unorthodox things, … but no one noticed except the musicians who tried to duplicate them. —Rolling Stone

  • Thanks, I have considered "notice", but for me it has connotations of "cognitive interpretation" or "thinking" as in "he noticed the irregular beat". But I am looking for something which describes the activity of sensing some thing and focussing on the sensations experienced, without emotional reaction to the thing, or categorization or judgement of the thing. It is equivalent to "See, hear, feel, smell and taste (this)", but in an holistic way - rather than listing the different modes of sensation.
    – steveOw
    Apr 29, 2023 at 14:03

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