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 instinctual (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

The rainy, moody backdrop that’s come to be expected from London Fashion Week only seems to have heightened the instinct for Day-Glo-inspired personal expression. Vogue, "The Statement Lip Is London’s Street Style Beauty Takeaway," 20 Feb. 2019 Turner has terrific defensive instincts to go with a 7-4 wingspan. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "NBA draft grades... years later: How grading of recent Pacers' picks holds up," 24 June 2018 His style—trust instincts, take control of details, ignore naysayers—paid off during Snap’s meteoric rise after its 2011 founding. Maureen Farrell, WSJ, "Evan Spiegel’s Imperious Style Made Snapchat a Success—Until Users Fled," 23 Dec. 2018 But South Boston Speedway didn’t exactly applaud his protective instincts, reported ESPN. Crystal Hill, miamiherald, "Father pulled son from burning car during race, video shows. That broke NASCAR rules," 21 June 2018 Post has sharper musical instincts, picks his collaborators well, and seems to have a better self-awareness about what his fans want and expect from him -- but his footing at pop music's apex is by no means totally secure. Andrew Unterberger, Billboard, "Post Malone's 'Beerbongs and Bentleys' Will Silence Some Naysayers, But Not the Ones He Should Actually Listen To (Critic's Take)," 27 Apr. 2018 The sound production of this film alone is worth experiencing, but its winding story of police instinct and emergency keeps viewers gripped as well. Sam Machkovech And Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Films for the discerning nerd: Ars picks the best of 2018," 27 Dec. 2018 Their fingers ever on the pulse, those instincts drew them to Ari Versluis, the Dutch photographer responsible for an ongoing visual series called Exactitudes, which began in 1994. Monica Kim, Vogue, "We11Done Went From Seoul to Berlin—To Make the World’s Chicest Bus Stop," 12 Dec. 2018 Strikethrough happened because LiveJournal reacted on instinct and without nuance. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "Tumblr’s porn ban could be its downfall — after all, it happened to LiveJournal," 6 Dec. 2018

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, "Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado Rips Donald Trump’s Reaction to Orlando Shooting," 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

Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

20 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instinct

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on instinct

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with instinct

Spanish Central: Translation of instinct

Nglish: Translation of instinct for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of instinct for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about instinct

Comments on instinct

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