instinct

1 of 2

noun

in·​stinct ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio)
1
: a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity
had an instinct for the right word
2
a
: 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
instinctual
in-ˈstiŋ(k)-chə-wəl How to pronounce instinct (audio)
-chəl
-shwəl
-chü-əl
adjective
instinctually adverb

instinct

2 of 2

adjective

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Our instincts and tendencies are ways of thinking and behaving that have become written into the structure of our brains through experience. Prarthana Prakash, Fortune, 8 July 2024 Our first instinct is not to turf to subspecialities, but to do the legwork and diagnostic workup necessary to make a diagnosis that can accompany patients to their specialist's appointments. Molly Peck, USA TODAY, 8 July 2024
Adjective
Another study found that very involved dads experienced more activation in the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, instinct, and the fight-or-flight response. Jamie Friedlander Serrano, TIME, 15 May 2024 The connections to other habitats in the Belmont Mountains are at risk, and once those pathways are gone, animals are unable to roam, an instinct migratory species need to survive. Hayleigh Evans, The Arizona Republic, 13 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for instinct 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'instinct.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1667, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near instinct

Cite this Entry

“Instinct.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instinct. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

instinct

noun
in·​stinct
ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t
1
: a natural ability or inclination
2
a
: an act or course of action in response to a stimulus that is usually inherited and is automatic rather than learned
b
: behavior that is based on automatic actions

Medical Definition

instinct

noun
in·​stinct ˈin-ˌstiŋ(k)t How to pronounce instinct (audio)
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
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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