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

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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

Many people who leave their small-town homes for school or any number of other reasons later discover that the tug of their roots is greater than migratory impulses. Liza Weisstuch, BostonGlobe.com, "Tulsa is in the throes of a dining renaissance," 2 Sep. 2019 Sampaio's picking impulses vary based on different factors. Marci Robin, Allure, "Sara Sampaio Wants Others With Trichotillomania to Not Feel Shame About Their Hair-Pulling Disorder," 1 Sep. 2019 This means cerebral organoids are generating electrical impulses. The Economist, "Cerebral organoids are becoming more brainlike," 29 Aug. 2019 More than anything else, this impulse explains why Americans have transformed James Buchanan into our first gay president. Thomas Balcerski, Smithsonian, "The 175-Year History of Speculating About President James Buchanan’s Bachelorhood," 28 Aug. 2019 The scientists suggest an optimistic mindset may promote healthy behaviors like exercise and healthy diets and help individuals resist the temptation of unhealthy impulses like smoking and drinking. David Shultz, Science | AAAS, "Cheer up! Optimists live longer," 26 Aug. 2019 These electrical signals typically happen without such lavender bursts, but this nerve cell holds a special dye that emits light with each impulse. Kelso Harper, Scientific American, "Flashing Neurons, Invisible Moonlight and Adorable Squid Babies: The Week’s Best Science GIFs," 23 Aug. 2019 Serene images of row after row of double-decker bike racks, with space for 12,500 (!) bicycles, were technically absorbed by my retina, where they were converted into electrochemical impulses and transferred along the optic nerve to my brain. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "I can’t wrap my feeble American brain around this massive bike parking garage in the Netherlands," 20 Aug. 2019 These are not even desperate blind flings from the realization of the hopeless situation in our society; these are just senseless inertial impulses of a decrepit organism that has lost its bearing. Anatoly Chernyaev, Harper's magazine, "Cogs of War," 19 Aug. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for impulse

The first known use of impulse was in 1611

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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

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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

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