animal spirits

plural noun

sometimes animal spirit obsolete : the nervous energy that is the source of physical sensation and movement
: vivacity arising from physical health and energy
in Keynesian economic theory : emotional feelings and desires (such as an optimistic willingness to take positive action) that influence the economic behavior of consumers and investors
If you ask how much consumers will consume and investors invest over the next few months, the answer is determined largely by feelings—what John Maynard Keynes called "animal spirits." If frightened people decide not to spend, their nervousness can translate into a depressed economy.Paul Krugman

Examples of animal spirits in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And while the biotech’s recent recovery is clearly tied to macroeconomic factors, Wednesday’s sudden dip offers few easy explanations beyond investors taking profits, year-end tax-loss selling, and the familiar animal spirits. Damian Garde, STAT, 22 Dec. 2023 The figures are derived from the fusion of two Zapotec animal spirits, the toná and the nahual. Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, 23 Nov. 2023 The central bank wants to dampen Wall Street’s animal spirits and crimp demand for goods and services so inflation returns to a more manageable level and stays there. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 3 May 2023 Each arc presents its own challenges for Maika Halfwolf and her allies to overcome, while also trickling out intriguing details about the history of the animal spirits known as Ancients and their long-ago war with the Lovecraftian Old Gods (including the one that now lives within Maika's body). Christian Holub,, 16 Sep. 2022 For its part, Citibank fears animal spirits at work. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 24 Mar. 2023 Those pictures helped destroy the ancient belief that animal spirits pumped through hollow chambers inside the brain. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 19 Mar. 2012 Simply put, corporate welfare on such a massive scale deadened Japan’s animal spirits. William Pesek, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 The economy contracted, not just for lack of money or for animal spirits of investors, but for lack of credit. John H. Cochrane, National Review, 14 Oct. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'animal spirits.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of animal spirits was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near animal spirits

Cite this Entry

“Animal spirits.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on animal spirits

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!