Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun in·stant \ˈin(t)-stənt\

Simple Definition of instant

  • : a very short period of time

Full Definition of instant

  1. 1 :  an infinitesimal space of time; especially :  a point in time separating two states <at the instant of death>

  2. 2 :  the present or current month

Examples of instant

  1. For an instant, I forgot where I was.

  2. The ride was over in an instant.

Origin of instant

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin instant-, instans, from instant-, instans, adjective, instant, from Latin

First Known Use: 14th century



adjective in·stant

Simple Definition of instant

  • : becoming something very quickly

  • : happening or done without delay

  • of food : able to be made very quickly : partially prepared by the manufacturer so that final preparation is quick and easy

Full Definition of instant

  1. 1 :  importunate, urgent

  2. 2 a :  present, current <previous felonies not related to the instant crime> b :  of or occurring in the present month —abbreviation inst

  3. 3 :  immediate, direct <the play was an instant success>

  4. 4 a (1) :  premixed or precooked for easy final preparation <instant pudding> (2) :  appearing in or as if in ready-to-use form <instant poetry> b :  immediately soluble in water <instant coffee>

  5. 5 :  produced or occurring with or as if with extreme rapidity and ease

in·stant·ness noun

Examples of instant

  1. The movie was an instant hit.

  2. He became an instant celebrity with the publication of his first novel.

  3. We got an instant response from the company.

  4. The Internet provides instant access to an enormous amount of information.

  5. Is this coffee instant or regular?

Origin of instant

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin instant-, instans, from present participle of instare to stand upon, urge, from in- + stare to stand — more at stand

First Known Use: 15th century

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up instant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 6, 2016

an official order, decree, or edict

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

spindrift pince-nez kittly-benders duvet
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.