Purpose: This paper aims to focus on research work related to metamaterial-based sensors for material characterization that have been developed for past ten years. A decade of research on metamaterial for sensing application has led to the advancement of compact and improved sensors. Design/methodology/approach: In this study, relevant research papers on metamaterial sensors for material characterization published in reputed journals during the period 2007-2018 were reviewed, particularly focusing on shape, size and nature of materials characterized. Each sensor with its design and performance parameters have been summarized and discussed here. Findings: As metamaterial structures are excited by electromagnetic wave interaction, sensing application throughout electromagnetic spectrum is possible. Recent advancement in fabrication techniques and improvement in metamaterial structures have led to the development of compact, label free and reversible sensors with high sensitivity. Originality/value: The paper provides useful information on the development of metamaterial sensors for material characterization. © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.