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

Thanks to showmanship and an instinct for popular taste, the operation expanded. The Economist, "The Jewish immigrants who changed British diets," 29 Aug. 2019 So my instinct at the start of our seaside Serea soiree was to ask our server to tell the kitchen to go easy on the salt. San Diego Union-Tribune, "With Serea, does the Hotel Del once again have a restaurant worthy of the setting?," 29 Aug. 2019 Our instinct is often to switch to something more immediately enjoyable—scrolling through Instagram, playing a game on our phones, or, sure, binge-watching 55 episodes of Friends. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "What to do when you’re bored at work," 27 Aug. 2019 Puzzling our way out of a bad situation is an instinct well supplied to Americans but less elsewhere. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "Envy and American Art," 22 Aug. 2019 My gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right. Amy Dickinson, chicagotribune.com, "Ask Amy: Couple saw something but won't say something," 5 June 2019 My gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right. Amy Dickinson, The Denver Post, "Ask Amy: Couple saw something, but won’t say something," 5 June 2019 My gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Couple saw something, but won’t say something," 5 June 2019 My gut instinct told me that something wasn't right. Ask Amy, oregonlive.com, "Ask Amy: This ‘some type of fetish thing’ sounds more like a crime," 5 June 2019

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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Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

4 Sep 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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Comments on instinct

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