insanity

noun

in·​san·​i·​ty in-ˈsa-nə-tē How to pronounce insanity (audio)
plural insanities
1
dated : a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder
2
law : unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents someone from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases someone from criminal or civil responsibility
3
a
: extreme folly or unreasonableness
the insanity of violence
His comments were pure insanity.
b
: something utterly foolish or unreasonable
the insanities of modern life

Did you know?

On the Meaning of Insanity

An oft-quoted bon mot (frequently attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or a number of other people who probably never said it) is that insanity may be defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” While the job of lexicographers might be easier if they were allowed to use witty sayings instead of precise definitions, such belletristic labors are not within their purview. The straight facts about insanity are these: it has been in use in English since the late 16th century, for the first two hundred years or so carrying only the literal meaning “the condition of being mentally deranged.” In the 19th century it began to take on a looser sense, “extreme folly or unreasonableness.” In modern usage, insanity may be found in both senses: you may tell your brother that trying to skateboard while holding onto a car is "insanity" (in which case you mean that it is extremely foolish) or encounter the stricter original meaning in such contexts as insanity plea.

Examples of insanity in a Sentence

She was found not guilty by reason of insanity. His friends thought his decision to quit his job was pure insanity. Please, no more violence. It's time to stop this insanity. the insanities of modern life
Recent Examples on the Web During the trial, where lawyers attempted to plead temporary insanity, it was determined Peter died of asphyxia, starvation and exposure at around 6 weeks old. Gabriele Regalbuto, Fox News, 4 July 2024 The scene-stealing sequence paved the way for him being cast in an anarchic 1970 war comedy called MASH, where he was paired up with Elliott Gould as Korean War surgeons trying to stay sane amidst the insanity, blood and death. Tim Grierson, Rolling Stone, 20 June 2024 What follows is approximately 40 minutes of OMG WTF is happening insanity, as Asher and Whitney struggle against this sudden attack of reverse gravity, trying to get him back on the ground. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 18 June 2024 But their punk, DIY, anti-establishment attitudes follow a long lineage of music that reflects back modern society’s normalized insanity. Margaret Farrell, SPIN, 14 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for insanity 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'insanity.' 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

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of insanity was in 1590

Dictionary Entries Near insanity

Cite this Entry

“Insanity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insanity. Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

insanity

noun
in·​san·​i·​ty in-ˈsan-ət-ē How to pronounce insanity (audio)
plural insanities
1
: the condition of being mentally unsound especially when serious enough to keep one from being convicted of a crime or from performing duties required by law
2
a
: extreme foolishness or unreasonableness
b
: senseless conduct

Medical Definition

insanity

noun
in·​san·​i·​ty in-ˈsan-ət-ē How to pronounce insanity (audio)
plural insanities
1
dated : a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder
2
law : unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility

Legal Definition

insanity

noun
in·​san·​i·​ty
1
: unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility: as
a
: a disease, defect, or condition of the mind that renders one unable to understand the nature of a criminal act or the fact that it is wrong or to conform one's conduct to the requirements of the law being violated
b
: inability to understand and participate in legal proceedings brought against one : incompetence
c
: inability to understand the nature and purpose of a punishment (as the death penalty) to which one has been sentenced
d
: inability to understand the nature and consequences of one's acts (as making a will) or of events, matters, or proceedings in which one is involved see also commitment, durham rule, irresistible impulse test, m'naghten test, not guilty by reason of insanity, substantial capacity test compare capacity, competency, competent, diminished capacity, sanity
2
: the affirmative defense of having acted while insane

More from Merriam-Webster on insanity

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