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tactile sensation received by the skin, enabling the organism to detect objects or substances in contact with the body. End organs (nerve endings) in the skin convey the impression to the brain. Touch sensitivity varies in different parts of the body, depending on the number of end organs present in any one area. The tip of the tongue, lips, and fingertips are three of the most sensitive areas, the back and parts of the limbs the least so. The sense of touch is very closely related to the other four sensations received by the skin: pain, pressure, heat, and cold. There is a specific kind of sensory receptor for each of the five so-called cutaneous senses. For example, light-touch receptors convey only the sensation that an object is in contact with the body, while pressure receptors convey the force, or degree, of contact. The blind learn to read by the Braille system by making use of the sensitivity to touch of the fingertips.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the ability of animals and man to sense environmental factors by means of receptors in the skin; in the locomotor system, which includes the muscles, tendons, and joints; and in some mucous membranes, such as those on the lips and tongue.

The tactile process is based on stimulation of various types of receptors: mechanoreceptors that perceive contact, pressure, and tension; thermoreceptors that perceive heat and cold; and pain receptors. This information then reaches and is transformed by the central nervous system, including the cerebral cortex. The sensation of touch can be quite varied because it results from a complex perception of different properties of a stimulus acting on the skin and subcutaneous tissues. The perception of environmental objects by touch permits evaluations to be made concerning their shape, size, surface properties, consistency, temperature, dryness or wetness, and position and movement in space. At the cellular level, touch breaks down into several different receptor processes: there is no single morphological type of tactile cell.

The sense of touch greatly broadens the organism’s impressions of its surroundings and plays an important role in its vital activity. In many lower animals the sense of touch, together with chemical sensitivity, is the principal means of perceiving the environment. To some extent, touch substitutes for the sensory organs of sight and hearing when they are injured. Touch permits blind persons to read, perform a variety of delicate manual operations, and orient themselves in space. In persons who are both blind and deaf, touch is the main source of information about the outside world and can be developed to an exceptionally high degree. The term “touch” is becoming less common because of increasing knowledge of the receptor processes’ cellular mechanisms; the mechanisms of mechanoreception, thermoreception, and pain are usually considered independently.


Granit, R. Elektrofiziologicheskoe issledovanie retseptsii. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from English.)
Esakov, A. I., and T. M. Dmitrieva. Neirofiziologicheskie osnovy taktil’nogo vospriiatiia. Moscow, 1971.
Fiziologiia sensornykh sistem, part 2. (Ruko-vodstvopo fiziologii.) Leningrad, 1972.
Milner, P. Fiziologicheskaia psikhologiia. Moscow, 1973. Chapters 8, 10. (Translated from English.)




a performer’s particular manner of producing sound on the piano through various ways of pressing and striking the keys. Each pianist has his own individual touch, which depends on his physiology and artistic intent. J. Field and S. Thalberg produced a soft, “velvety” tone; S. V. Rachmaninoff and A. G. Rubinstein played with a deep, rich tone; and K. N. Igumnov elicited a tender, lyric sound.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The array of sensations arising from pressure sensitivity of the skin.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Rugby Soccer the area outside the touchlines, beyond which the ball is out of play (esp in the phrase in touch)
2. Archaic
a. an official stamp on metal indicating standard purity
b. the die stamp used to apply this mark
3. a scoring hit in competitive fencing
4. an estimate of the amount of gold in an alloy as obtained by use of a touchstone
5. the technique of fingering a keyboard instrument
6. the quality of the action of a keyboard instrument with regard to the relative ease with which the keys may be depressed
7. Bell-ringing any series of changes where the permutations are fewer in number than for a peal
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) A generic reference to touchscreen interfaces, which means using the fingers to type, tap icons and move objects on a touch-sensitive screen. See touchscreen and Touch Bar.

(2) See iPod touch.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
Andy Signal claimed two of the home touch downs. Loa Topou also went in and Anthony Birley hit one conversion and a penalty.
Eight minutes later the outside-half threw a dummy to deceive his opposite number and touch down under the posts, tagging on another penalty before Eric Miller blocked a kick from Brian Lima and ran on to score.
At the start of the third quarter the Nighthawks tried to turn the game in their favour, but Cougars quarter-back Rogers took to the air again and wide receivers Andy Ellis and Greg Beswick scored touch downs.
Straight from the restart, the Nant backs had an opportunity to show their class and winger, Gwion Ellis Jones outpaced everyone to touch down in the left corner for the final score.
The winger sprinted in from his 22 to touch down after 26 minutes.
Tudno responded with a movement which saw flanker Jose Roberts touch down, Luke Jones adding the conversion.
Lock Llyr Griffiths further extended Nuns' advantage soon after the restart before Brown broke several tackles to touch down. Aston's second score followed before Murray outpaced the defence for his tenth touchdown of the season.
Alstead then touch down Dave McConnell's kick and completed his hat-trick five minutes from time with a superb 30 metre touchline dash.
With the score locked on 15-15 and time beginning to run out, replacement scrum-half Williams capitalised on strong scrummaging to touch down.
Rotherham were showing signs of coming back into the game when a fourth penalty goal by Mike Umaga made it 18-12, but Harlequins capitalised on defensive errors by Umaga and winger Michael Wood which allowed Quins back Rod Jewell to touch down. Five minutes later Quins captain and Australian flanker David Wilson touched down for his side's fourth try, and with replacement outside-half Craig Chalmers adding the conversion Harlequins' victory was guaranteed.
Rhinos scored the first try early on through Kevin Sinfield and, even though their line was broken several times, they limited Salford to a Logan Tomkins touch down.
Second-row Danny Lowe went on a storming run, breaking through a number of tackles, to set up the next try, which saw centre Dave Davies touch down.