animal spirits

plural noun

Definition of animal spirits

1 sometimes animal spirit, obsolete : the nervous energy that is the source of physical sensation and movement
2 : vivacity arising from physical health and energy
3 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 The government then tried to revive animal spirits by sharply cutting corporate-tax rates. The Economist, "India’s budget disappoints investors," 1 Feb. 2020 This moment is about the triumph of the animal spirit. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "Corgi Puppy Named Luna Posing Proudly With Hedge Trimmed in Her Likeness Becomes Viral Sensation," 17 Jan. 2020 So perhaps companies should avoid getting too carried away by animal spirits. Adrian Croft, Fortune, "Move Over, Black Friday. ‘Merger Monday’ Sent the Markets to New Highs—and the Deals are Likely to Continue," 27 Nov. 2019 As any reporter covering the Dow will tell you, round numbers exert a mysterious hold on investors, so being 3,000 shy of six-figure deliveries will have dampened animal spirits somewhat. Washington Post, "Tesla Breaks Another Record, But Did It Break Even?," 3 Oct. 2019 The state, therefore, must steer investment growth, until the private sector’s animal spirits are back. R Nagaraj, Quartz India, "India’s economic slowdown may be worse than it appears," 10 Sep. 2019 And increasingly, in the private markets, those animal spirits are derived from institutional investors. Ben Carlson, Fortune, "Why WeWork Embodies Everything You Need to Know About Investor Sentiment Right Now," 25 July 2019 The lighter touch has unleashed bankers’ animal spirits. Michelle F. Davis,, "Trump removed Wall Street’s secret shackles. Now banks are prowling for deals," 11 July 2019 With market volatility rising as central banks tighten policy, and animal spirits roaring in corporate boardrooms, this patient strategy is now paying off. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Blankfein’s Vindication and His Uncertain Legacy," 17 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'animal spirits.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of animal spirits

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about animal spirits

Time Traveler for animal spirits

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for animal spirits

Last Updated

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Animal spirits.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

Comments on animal spirits

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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