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

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 His first instinct is to assume that someone else is in his bed. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 2 Aug. 2022 Hershovitz said his first instinct was to turn the radio off and change the subject, as he was concerned that the topic was too disturbing to discuss with his young child. Amy Schwabe, Journal Sentinel, 27 July 2022 Healy said his first instinct was to check on his elderly uncle who lives on the next street over. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 7 July 2022 When faced with uncertainty, our first instinct is often to hide our fears–but our instincts can be wrong. Edward Sullivan, Fortune, 28 June 2022 Now more than ever, our first instinct is to jump on the computer from the comfort of our own home instead of getting in the car to fight the traffic and crowds at the store. Maurice Griefer, Forbes, 17 June 2022 With his background in software engineering, McKibben says his first instinct was to help them by registering them for food delivery apps or building them websites and social media followings. Karissa Chen, Bon Appétit, 31 May 2022 Their first instinct is to see a woman claiming abuse as a temptress. R. Albert Mohler, WSJ, 26 May 2022 His first instinct was to blame Marie for not having called building maintenance earlier to eradicate it. Ling Ma, The Atlantic, 16 May 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

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Dictionary Entries Near instinct

instill

instinct

instinction

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Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Instinct.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instinct. Accessed 9 Aug. 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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