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 \

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When your car has problems, your instinct is probably to take it to a mechanic. New York Times, 14 July 2021 My instinct, for now, is to say there isn’t a wrong choice between the two. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, 11 July 2021 Our instinct is to treat these opportunities with skepticism, mainly when the data throws up results that do not sit comfortably with us. Shaheena Janjuha-jivraj, Forbes, 12 June 2021 Your instinct might be to immediately try to put a stop to whatever is triggering your jealousy — by shutting down the flirty waitress or bugging your spouse about his long work hours — but the best place to start is in your own head. Kaitlyn Pirie, Good Housekeeping, 7 June 2021 My instinct was to avoid the program, the way Odysseus steered from the island of the Sirens by making his sailors stuff their ears with wax and tie him to the mast. Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2021 Typically, their instinct is to run away from potential danger, according to the wildlife agency. Brittany Shammas, Anchorage Daily News, 3 May 2021 Typically, their instinct is to run away from potential danger, according to the wildlife agency. Washington Post, 2 May 2021 My instinct as a writer was to try to take at least one of those numbers, and to reverse the process. Angelina Jolie, Time, 17 Apr. 2021 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

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.

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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

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Learn More About instinct

Time Traveler for instinct

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near instinct

instill

instinct

instinction

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Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Instinct.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instinct. Accessed 28 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for instinct

instinct

noun

English Language Learners Definition of instinct

: a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned : a natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way
: something you know without learning it or thinking about it
: a natural ability

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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