I'm looking for a word to describe someone who is sensitive to the point that other have to tiptoe around her. In other words, someone who can't handle routine jokes, normal criticism, or a comment that can possibly be interpreted in a negative way, even when it wasn't meant like that.

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    I'm sorry I can't answer, I guess due to protection and me only having 101 rep. In German, we have a metaphor: 'mimosa' or 'shrinking violet' which is a very sensitive flower, which reacts sensitive on touching. I don't know whether it is used in English too. – user unknown Apr 12 '12 at 1:36
  • @userunknown We do have the phrase shrinking violet in American English. This particular questioner, however, was looking for a single word. – user14070 Apr 12 '12 at 12:48
  • @dmr you both titled and tagged this as Single word, but you commented on later answers that this was not a requirement. In the future, please tag and title requests appropriately. – user14070 Apr 12 '12 at 12:53
  • @JoshuaDrake Sure- I will make sure to be more precise in the future. – dmr Apr 12 '12 at 18:37

10 Answers 10


Someone who is hypersensitive is often said to be thin-skinned.

  • Nice answer, with two good choices for the price of one! :) – John Y Apr 12 '12 at 3:32
  • Great answer- thanks! I think I like hypersensitive better; it seems to me to have more of a negative connotation than thin-skinned. – dmr Apr 12 '12 at 3:46

The first word that springs to mind is touchy.

  • This is good- but I'm looking to add a sense of vulnerability to the adjective rather than a sense of getting angry. – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 20:47
  • @dmr hypersensitive, at least to me, does not really encompass vulnerability. – user14070 Apr 12 '12 at 12:49

I like the term "brittle" if you prefer emotional fragility over crabbiness.

If you prefer to infer a certain sour attitude, perhaps "prickly" would fit.


Highly strung perhaps?

edit: Admittedly this is not a single word.

  • I don't mind that it's two words. However, this adds a sense of the person being tense that I'm not looking for. – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 20:48
  • high-strung is one word. – zpletan Apr 11 '12 at 21:52

I can think of irascible, which conveys the sense of being extremely easy to anger.

  • I'm not looking for that sense. Thanks though! – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 21:13

What about "susceptible"? I think il fits the sense that you have expressed.

Collins English Dictionary defines "susceptible" as follow: "easily impressed emotionally".

Also, Oxford Advanced Learning's Dictionary defines "susceptible" as follow; "easily influenced by feelings and emotions", ("She was both charming and susceptible.")

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    Technically I'm sure you're right, but to me susceptible feels like vulnerable and nothing else. – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 22:03

Consider nervous ("Easily agitated or alarmed" and "Apprehensive, anxious, hesitant, worried"), or in the UK, nervy ("Feeling nervous, anxious or agitated"). Also excitable, edgy ("nervous, apprehensive"), uptight, jumpy, sensitive, fragile, delicate.

Edit: Neurotic, typically negative in connotation, is used informally to mean "overly anxious".

  • Fragile is good, but its connotation is more on the positive side while I'm looking for something with a negative subtext. – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 22:34
  • @dmr, I've added "Neurotic, typically negative in connotation ..." – James Waldby - jwpat7 Apr 11 '12 at 22:46
  • Good suggestion, but I'm looking for something that just means sensitive, not with a nervous side. – dmr Apr 12 '12 at 3:44

Perhaps the word you are looking for really is "sensitive":

excessively affected by external agencies or influences.
easily pained, annoyed, etc.

  • Sensitive is not strong enough for what I want. – dmr Apr 11 '12 at 23:18

Victimizing themselves? eg. Alice tends to victimize herself.

Or perhaps, to a higher degree, has a persecution complex?

Both are two word phrases and may be more severe than what you intend to use the word for.


In the vernacular, someone who is hypersensitive could be called a:


  • NOT what I was looking for – dmr Apr 12 '12 at 3:43
  • Please don't waste your time being offended. It's your own choice. – zzzzBov Apr 12 '12 at 3:52
  • @zzzBov "..and if you read it and dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it" ;) – dmr Apr 12 '12 at 5:58
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    @dmr, I did provide what I thought were reasonable indicators that it wouldn't be suitable for all situations (or all readers), in addition to a politically correct alternative. I suppose a hypersensitive reader could come to the wrong conclusion. – zzzzBov Apr 12 '12 at 18:43
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    @dmr, What may be dangerously incorrect in one situation is perfect in another. This is exactly the word I would use for a hypersensitive person if I were speaking with my friends. If the person was really hypersensitive, I may even add an enhancing expletive. – user545424 Apr 13 '12 at 1:20

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