instinct

noun
in·​stinct | \ ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio) \

Definition of instinct

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity had an instinct for the right word
2a : a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason
b : behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level

instinct

adjective
in·​stinct | \ in-ˈstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio) , ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio) \

Definition of instinct (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : profoundly imbued : infused my mood, instinct with romance— S. J. Perelman
2 obsolete : impelled by an inner or animating or exciting agency

Other Words from instinct

Noun

instinctual \ in-​ˈstiŋ(k)-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce instinct (audio) , -​chəl , -​shwəl , -​chü-​əl \ adjective
instinctually adverb

Examples of instinct in a Sentence

Noun Our first instinct was to run. Cats possess a natural hunting instinct. Seeing the baby aroused all her maternal instincts. He has been guided throughout his career by his political instincts. Mere instinct alerted her to the danger. He knew by instinct what not to say. She seemed to know by instinct that something was wrong. He has a strong survival instinct. an athlete with good instincts See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For some, the instinct to stay quiet has grown more difficult. Emily Yahr, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2022 In a movie that’s partly about the human instinct to care for other people, Chau breaks your heart. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Sep. 2022 In that way, the Air Raid remains as much about the moxie of its coach as anything else, rewarding those who refuse the instinct to skate along with the status quo. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, 28 Aug. 2022 It’s the natural human instinct to shy away from such circumstances, especially when there are extensive repercussions at stake. Ron Carucci, Forbes, 18 Aug. 2022 The females are capable of stinging, but lack the instinct to guard their nest like a honeybee. Tim Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 6 Aug. 2022 With many of Variant’s current bets among the most known and successful in Web3, the instinct of Walden and Jin seems to be on point. Taylor Locke, Fortune, 28 July 2022 Some gay leaders argued that the instinct to live in communities of like-minded people remained a powerful draw and that there would always be some version of a gayborhood, though perhaps not as concentrated and powerful. New York Times, 3 July 2022 When a woman and man see the footage of Kamala's powers, the first instinct is to brush it off. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 8 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Mr. Hickenlooper’s denouncement could serve to highlight for Mrs. Clinton’s team his instinct to battle the rival nominee, an important role that vice-presidential candidates play for the top of the ticket. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 17 June 2016 See More

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

First Known Use of instinct

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1667, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for instinct

Noun

Middle English, from Latin instinctus impulse, from instinguere to incite; akin to Latin instigare to instigate

Learn More About instinct

Time Traveler for instinct

Time Traveler

The first known use of instinct was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near instinct

instill

instinct

instinction

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Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

14 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Instinct.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instinct. Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for instinct

instinct

noun
in·​stinct | \ ˈin-ˌstiŋkt How to pronounce instinct (audio) \

Kids Definition of instinct

1 : an act or course of action in response to a stimulus that is automatic rather than learned It's a cat's instinct to hunt.
2 : a way of knowing something without learning or thinking about it Her instincts told her to wait.
3 : a natural ability He has an instinct for making money.

instinct

noun
in·​stinct | \ ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio) \

Medical Definition of instinct

1 : a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason
2 : behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level

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