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

With the communication planet in an intimate and sensitive sector of your chart, trust your instincts. Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What April’s Virgo Horoscope Means for You," 31 Mar. 2019 Twenty-five years of design work have taught Molster to trust her instincts. Kaitlin Menza, House Beautiful, "Janie Molster Strongly Believes There is No Such a Thing as Too Much Pink," 6 Feb. 2019 And to finally acknowledge, hear, and most importantly, trust my instincts. Polo Tate, Marie Claire, "Sexual Assault in the Military: One Woman's True Story," 8 Aug. 2018 That was just gut instinct, though; unlike me, Carreyrou actually began digging. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "The downfall of Theranos, from the journalist who made it happen," 15 July 2018 Mr Rajoy, a great survivor whose stolid appearance hides sharp political instincts, had been outwitted at last. The Economist, "Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, assembles a reassuring team," 7 June 2018 The only thing to be done is to trust our instincts. Marc Peruzzi, Outside Online, "I Was the First! (And Probably the Only)," 24 Apr. 2018 And Chris still keeps an eye and talks regularly to people like the Federal CIO, Suzette Kent, who has fantastic instincts and has also been leaning in to change policy. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Matt Cutts of the U.S. Digital Service on Recode Decode," 12 July 2018 This liberal worldview will be boosted by the promotion of Matt Hancock, who now rules the health department and has similar instincts. The Economist, "A quiet revolution in Theresa May’s cabinet," 12 July 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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Statistics for instinct

Last Updated

15 May 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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