- It refers to a specific kind of NIL.
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Over time this definition has changed to refer to creatures that are self-aware (but not necessarily intelligent), and capable of manipulating their environment. Solomani refer to intelligent creatures as sapient, from their term "to know". Sentient refers to entire species, where individual members are termed sentients.
Debate revolves around these proto-sapient species as to whether they should they be declared sapient and allowed to complete their biological and cultural evolution or left declared non-sapient. The lack of consensus on this matter has led to inconsistent declarations throughout the Imperium.