impulse

verb
im·​pulse | \ ˈim-ˌpəls How to pronounce impulse (audio) , im-ˈpəls\
impulsed; impulsing

Definition of impulse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

: to give an impulse to

impulse

noun
im·​pulse | \ ˈim-ˌpəls How to pronounce impulse (audio) \

Definition of impulse (Entry 2 of 2)

b : a force so communicated as to produce motion suddenly
c : incentive
2a : the act of driving onward with sudden force : impulsion
b : motion produced by such an impulsion : impetus
c : a wave of excitation transmitted through tissues and especially nerve fibers and muscles that results in physiological activity or inhibition — see nerve impulse
3a : a sudden spontaneous inclination or incitement to some usually unpremeditated action
b : a propensity or natural tendency usually other than rational
4a : the product of the average value of a force and the time during which it acts : the change in momentum produced by the force

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for impulse

Noun

motive, impulse, incentive, inducement, spur, goad mean a stimulus to action. motive implies an emotion or desire operating on the will and causing it to act. a motive for the crime impulse suggests a driving power arising from personal temperament or constitution. buying on impulse incentive applies to an external influence (such as an expected reward) inciting to action. a bonus was offered as an incentive inducement suggests a motive prompted by the deliberate enticements or allurements of another. offered a watch as an inducement to subscribe spur applies to a motive that stimulates the faculties or increases energy or ardor. fear was a spur to action goad suggests a motive that keeps one going against one's will or desire. thought insecurity a goad to worker efficiency

Examples of impulse in a Sentence

Noun

He has to learn to control his impulses. the new auto factory was just the impulse that the local economy needed

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Women displayed way more brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region that deals with decision making, focus and impulse control. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Science Says Women Have a More Active Brain, Compared to Men," 8 Aug. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The tape also controlled the lighting and music through audio impulses, synchronizing the performances and effects with the soundtrack. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Disney Attraction Powered by Nuclear Weapons Tech," 16 Jan. 2019 In fashion, lingering financial fear, anti-consumerist impulses, and environmental concerns have contributed to the rise of a booming resale market. Eliza Brooke, Vox, "How the Great Recession influenced a decade of design," 27 Dec. 2018 In fact, a brief survey of Sephardi synagogues reveals competing impulses: devotion to tradition vying with assimilationist inclinations. Leslie Camhi, ELLE Decor, "Inside the World's Most Beautiful Synagogues," 5 Nov. 2018 Comparison on platforms like Instagram is a natural impulse, yes. Vania Manipod, SELF, "I’m a Psychiatrist, and Even I Get the Sunday Scaries—This Is How I Deal," 10 Oct. 2018 In its sensitivity to the violent contradictory impulses within each scene, Kyri's Hamlet is a triumph. Max Maller, Chicago Reader, "Daniel Kyri turns in a triumphant performance in the Gift's Hamlet," 13 June 2018 Since the advent of the smartphone, students in general have shorter attention spans and less impulse control. WSJ, "Fed-Up Teachers Take Their Chances Elsewhere," 4 Jan. 2019 Her twins, now seven, have hand-eye coordination issues and speech impediments—including other behavioral issues, such as lack of impulse control, says Walters. Sarah Hurtes, Harper's BAZAAR, "Women Who Risk Everything to Defend the Environment," 30 Nov. 2018 Smith, who has a criminal history dating back to the 1970s, was described by defense experts as a psychopath lacking in impulse control. Paulina Dedaj, Fox News, "Man who raped and killed Florida girl, 8, draws death sentence," 2 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impulse.' 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 impulse

Verb

1611, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1647, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for impulse

Noun

Latin impulsus, from impellere to impel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about impulse

Statistics for impulse

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for impulse

The first known use of impulse was in 1611

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for impulse

impulse

noun

English Language Learners Definition of impulse

: a sudden strong desire to do something
technical : a small amount of energy that moves from one area to another

impulse

noun
im·​pulse | \ ˈim-ˌpəls How to pronounce impulse (audio) \

Kids Definition of impulse

1 : a force that starts a body into motion
2 : the motion produced by a starting force
3 : a strong sudden desire to do something She resisted the impulse to shout.

impulse

noun
im·​pulse | \ ˈim-ˌpəls How to pronounce impulse (audio) \

Medical Definition of impulse

1 : a wave of excitation transmitted through tissues and especially nerve fibers and muscles that results in physiological activity or inhibition
2a : a sudden spontaneous inclination or incitement to some usually unpremeditated action some uncontrollable impulse…may have driven the defendant to the commission of the murderous act— B. N. Cardozo
b : a propensity or natural tendency usually other than rational the fundamental impulse of self-expression— Havelock Ellis

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on impulse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with impulse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impulse

Spanish Central: Translation of impulse

Nglish: Translation of impulse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impulse for Arabic Speakers

Comments on impulse

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to boil down or concentrate

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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