Sentientist Language

Language plays a powerful role in how we think and act. To help us move towards a more sentientist world, we might want to start using more sentientist language. In particular, that includes language that doesn’t trap us into thinking in anthropocentric or speciesist ways that narrow our moral circle to focus on humans.

This page sets out some suggestions about the sort of sentientist language we might want to adopt. I’d love to know what you think – new terms, better terms… Please comment below or join the discussion in one of our online communities.

Default LanguageSentientist Language
Describing non-human sentient beings as objects: e.g. “it”.Describing sentient beings as subjects: e.g. “they” or “them”.
Using the term “animal” or the names of species (e.g. pig, cow) in a pejorative way.Not doing this.
Using terms or phrases that imply harming or killing sentient beings is morally acceptable.Not doing this.
Describing “humans” as being distinct from “animals”.Not doing this. For example, by referring to “non-human animals” and making it clear that humans are animals too.
Human (adjective) – being related to or belonging to a human.Sentient (adjective) – the capacity to have experiences, for example suffering or flourishing.
Human (noun) – a member of the species homo sapiens.Sentient (noun) – a sentient being.
Humanity / humankind – humans in general.Sentientity / Sentientkind – sentients in general.
Humanitarian – improving human lives and reducing human suffering.Sentientarian – improving sentient lives and reducing sentient suffering.
Homicide – intentional killing of a human.Senticide – intentional killing of a sentient.
Humanism – Naturalistic worldview that grants moral consideration to all humans and (sometimes) has a concern for “other sentient animals”.Sentientism – Naturalistic worldview that grants moral consideration to all sentients.

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