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

Although your instinct might be to tell your friend what to do, that can often backfire. Cory Stieg, refinery29.com, "How Abusers Use Body-Shaming To Control Their Partners," 20 June 2019 Hernán Pérez has developed a feel and an instinct for the game that few players have. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "After pressing reset on the injured list, Jhoulys Chacín ready to get back on track," 16 June 2019 Her first instinct was to apply elsewhere, but application deadlines for other schools on her list had long passed. James Wellemeyer, Teen Vogue, "Applying to College Early Is a Privilege Not Every Student Can Afford," 20 Mar. 2019 If someone salutes you, your instinct is (probably) to return that salute,' wrote Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist for The Daily Beast. Josh Hafner, USA TODAY, "Trump saluted a North Korean general, state media shows, an unusual act of respect," 14 June 2018 Wolfert's first instinct was to work out harder and faster. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "Some people do better exercising at a low-intensity pace," 29 Apr. 2018 My instinct always had been to buy what’s seductively on sale. Sally Friedman, Philly.com, "Purple pants: A lesson in freedom," 24 Apr. 2018 The instincts needed to speed things up just aren't there. Avi Creditor, SI.com, "As VAR Shows at Women's World Cup, This is the New Normal," 22 June 2019 As a rule of thumb, says Carlos Romano, the head of Nestlé’s pet-food operations in Latin America, the animal instinct kicks in when household incomes exceed about $5,000 a year. The Economist, "Pet-ownership is booming across the world," 22 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

10 Jul 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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