Is there a single word to describe a being that is both Sentient and Sapient, but not necessarily “Human”? (Associated example scenarios and usage at end)

This word would be able to describe some being (such as an alien) that is visually and physically extremely different from a human but has a mind and a ability to think & communicate to a similar degree to a human. Alternatively, a word to describe an exceedingly intelligent dolphin, or the result of putting a human brain into a dinosaur’s body.

Simply saying “Human” or “Humanlike” is too broad and does not distinguish between sharing humanlike physical traits or humanlike mental traits. While “Anthropomorphic” can mean both physical and/or mental traits, it is most often used to describe the physical half of “Humanlike”, similar to "Humanoid". Does such a word to describe distinctly just the mental half of “Humanlike” exist?

The word should also not directly relate to Humans by not requiring similarity to specifically the mind of Homo sapiens. Thus "Human-minded" is too specific (similar to Anthropomorphic or Humanoid comparing things to humans specifically).

Just one of the words “Sentient” or “Sapient” alone would be insufficient to describe such a being.

“Sentient” is the ability to feel or perceive, allowing to think and experience emotions. This would necessarily include consciousness.

“Sapient” is the capacity for intelligence, wisdom, and logic along with the ability to solve problems, learn, and understand. This would almost necessarily include self-awareness.

-A single-celled bacterium does not think, feel, and certainly can not learn or make choices. It is neither sentient nor sapient.
-An ostrich experiences basic emotions and reacts to things around them so it is sentient, but its actions are predominantly driven by instinct and it does not understand why it does things nor does it care (it is not intelligent) so it is not sapient.
-A sufficiently complex AI that can learn and develop beyond its original programming, take in and analyze data about its experiences, and recognize patterns then adapt to use is sapient. Lacking consciousness, senses, or emotions it is not sentient.
-A dolphin can exhibit various emotions and moods, learn names and routines, develop relationships, develop skills to solve puzzles faster, and much more. It is sentient and is (at least very near) sapient.

A word that combines both Sentient and Sapient could appropriately describe the mental state of a human or aforementioned humanlike being without regard for any form of physical state or direct similarity to humans.

Examples: (using "SENSAP" as pertinent single word meaning simultaneously Sentient and Sapient)
-A human is SENSAP.
-A ostrich is not SENSAP since it is not sapient.
-An advanced AI in a mechanical human-looking body (Data from Star Trek without Emotion Chip) is not SENSAP since it is not sentient.
-"They may look like giant long-limbed crocodiles, but these aliens are impressively SENSAP. I recently had an enlightening chat with one about the planet's habitable polar environments and he got very upset when I jokingly suggested the planet was flat."
This alien is both sapient and sentient thus it is SENSAP. However its appearance is distinctly non-human; thus words like "Humanlike", "Humanoid", or "Anthropomorphic" would not be appropriate to describe them.

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    It wouls help if you gave: 1) dictionary defintions of both terms, and 2) example sentences where each are used and have different implications, and 3) a sentence where this new word could be used that is different from either word alone.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:01
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    The Traveller RPG uses sophont, but that may well be a coinage. But following @Mitch 's suggestions is recommended; don't just blindly accept someone else's coined word. Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:23
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    Perhaps intelligent but you seem to be anthropomorphising aliens in the same way that movies do. If they were here, maybe they would be using a word slightly better than unevolved to describe us. Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:24
  • 1
    You could try the science fiction site.
    – Xanne
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 20:38

3 Answers 3


As the question is about science fiction and terminology, neologisms would be acceptable; and neologisms are abundant in science fiction. There isn't an established word for this concept. A self-explanatory word that came to my mind was sapiosentient which is a portmanteau of sapient and sentient; and it is similar to a more established neologism sapiosexual. To my surprise, sapiosentient (or sapio-sentient) was already coined before and there are a few results per google search, including a website name.

Here is the definition of sapio-sentient used in an article from Hardvard University library:

The general intelligences and superintelligences would have a higher probability of being conscious, sapient, and sentient or as they are referred to in this thesis as sapio-sentient intelligences or sapio-sentients.

Anderson Ravindran, Nichole. 2018. Exploring Posthuman Conundrums and Policy Recommendations for Fostering Peaceful Co-Existence With Sapio-Sentient Intelligences. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School. https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/42004060

Sophont was suggested in the comments by Jeff Zeitlin, but I think its usage is not consistent to cover both sapient and sentient; and the definitions just focus on intelligence. Here is the definition from Wiktionary:

(chiefly science fiction) An intelligent being; a being with a base reasoning capacity roughly equivalent to or greater than that of a human being. The word does not apply to machines unless they have true artificial intelligence, rather than mere processing capacity.

  • I'm amazed that in my over 2 hours of searching that I never encountered the "sapiosentient" term (that website seems like it scored big on its name). "Sophont" was the most common result I got, but as you said, every definition I've seen doesn't have it equating to both sapient and sentient at once. I didn't encounter any other appropriate neologisms or portmanteau either. Thank you. This satisfies my question. (I may try using sapiosentient myself, good find!) I am curious if there is an established word for this concept in other languages. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 14:12
  • You are welcome. It wouldn't be easy to find as it is rare; and the word occured to me before I searched it. I've also found another definition in a science fiction fandom glossary: "a sapiosentient, a being who can reason and experience emotion" - zdict.fandom.com/wiki/Ar It looks like people already needed a word for this concept before you; and adopted this word. It might gain traction in time. Also, very nice update on your question; it is rare to see here.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 14:31

The simple answer to your main question is likely to be that there is no single word. If, for an example investigation, we compare synonyms offered by Thesaurus.com in a Venn diagram composed as below, we see at least three possibilities. Consulting more reference sources is only likely to increase the number of candidates common to both.

Thesaurus enter image description here

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    'Percipient' is probably so arcane that it's pressable into service with a stipulative definition. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 15:27
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    @EdwinAshworth That's good - creative, and it seems appropriate according to dictionary definitions. I think it is a good companion to "knowing".
    – Anton
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 17:11
  • @EdwinAshworth, note that a part of the meaning that the OP wants the word to have is not human. It would be difficult to press percipient to cover that aspect of the intended meaning and still sound natural.
    – jsw29
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 21:27
  • @EdwinAshworth I like it. While its literally meaning is far broader than I was looking for, I agree that it sounds like it could be made into an almost perfect word for it, especially with its phonetic similarity. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 11:25
  • @jsw29 My intent was that the word needs to be "independent" of humans, as in the existence of humans not having bearing on the word's meaning. For ex. word with a root or affix such as "Anthro(po)-" would not work, as that root literally means "human like". I did not require that the word includes "not human"; if applied to a human, the word would still be accurate as humans are indeed both sentient and sapient. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 11:32

I usually just use a somewhat expanded definition of 'person.' Anything of approximately human awareness and intelligence is a person. Robot? Person. Alien? Person. We're all people. I use this largely because it feels more, well, personable than terms like sapiosentient or sophont. Person implies a familiarity that may be helpful in relating to a potentially very distinct being.

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