pro·​pen·​si·​ty | \prə-ˈpen(t)-sə-tē \
plural propensities

Definition of propensity 

: an often intense natural inclination or preference

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for propensity

leaning, propensity, proclivity, penchant mean a strong instinct or liking for something. leaning suggests a liking or attraction not strong enough to be decisive or uncontrollable. a student with artistic leanings propensity implies a deeply ingrained and usually irresistible inclination. a propensity to offer advice proclivity suggests a strong natural proneness usually to something objectionable or evil. a proclivity for violence penchant implies a strongly marked taste in the person or an irresistible attraction in the object. a penchant for taking risks

You'll Like the Etymology of Propensity

When it comes to synonyms of propensity, the letter "p" predominates. Proclivity, preference, penchant, and predilection all share with propensity the essential meaning of "a strong instinct or liking." Not every word that is similar in meaning to propensity begins with "p," however. Propensity comes from Latin propensus, the past participle of propendēre, a verb meaning "to incline" or "to hang forward or down." Thus leaning and inclination are as good synonyms of propensity as any of those "p"-words.

Examples of propensity in a Sentence

Other researches are exploring how the adolescent propensity for uninhibited risk taking propels teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. — Claudia Wallis, Time, 10 May 2004 On the other hand, a jury might be convinced that a meth dealer who had brazenly fired a pistol through his door had a propensity for violence. — John Cloud, Time, 14 July 2003 A central tenet of this camp's proponents is that a considerable number of biological dispositions evolved during the Stone Age, including a male propensity for making war. — Bruce Bower, Science News, 27 Jan. 2001 He had a propensity for crime. the criminal propensities of the family extended over several generations
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

President Trump has rallied working-class white voters to the GOP’s cause but tended to alienate white college graduates, which has ended up closing the partisan gap in terms of propensity to vote in low-turnout elections. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Why Stacey Abrams isn’t conceding yet," 7 Nov. 2018 But the real payoff for early voting is banking votes from low-propensity voters — those who help drive up presidential turnout but typically sit out other elections. Bill Barrow, The Seattle Times, "Early returns: Excited bases for Democrats and Republicans," 26 Oct. 2018 Eventually, the mall succumbed to retail’s propensity to chase after newer, flashier spaces. Michael Corkery, New York Times, "A Macy’s Goes From Mall Mainstay to Homeless Shelter," 13 June 2018 Their homes are cropping up ever closer to these features, which often have a propensity to burn. Umair Irfan, Vox, "California’s wildfires are hardly “natural” — humans made them worse at every step," 12 Nov. 2018 Given the royal family's propensity to intermarry, America's final British King is actual Harry's ancestor many times over. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "How Prince Harry is Related to King George III in Hamilton," 29 Aug. 2018 But her comments are ringing a little ironic to many, given her husband's propensity to, well, cyberbully. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "First Lady Melania Trump Spoke at a Cyberbullying Summit While the President Tweeted Insults," 20 Aug. 2018 The idea is that people who’ve served for 16 years have already shown a propensity to stay and therefore don’t need an incentive. Maria Biery, WSJ, "A GI Bill Wrong From the Pentagon," 18 July 2018 Parents’ genetic contributions to their offspring do influence a child’s propensity to obesity. Melissa Healy,, "To reduce your risk of obesity, it helps to have a mom who follows five healthy habits," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'propensity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of propensity

1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for propensity

see propense

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about propensity

Share propensity

Listen to Our Podcast about propensity

Statistics for propensity

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for propensity

The first known use of propensity was in 1570

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for propensity



English Language Learners Definition of propensity

: a strong natural tendency to do something


pro·​pen·​si·​ty | \prə-ˈpen-sə-tē \

Kids Definition of propensity

: a natural tendency to do or favor something They have a propensity to chatter.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on propensity

What made you want to look up propensity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!