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

Despite his propensity for the untimely implosion, Kenny Hill was a dynamic yet dependable quarterback more times than not last season. The Si Staff,, "Which Teams Won't Be Going Back to Their Conference Title Games?," 28 May 2018 Still, more information and more context often can help with decision-making, and taking action, despite our natural propensity to do so, is not always the best choice. Steven Petrow, Washington Post, "Watching but not treating cancer can be hard. Sometimes it’s the right approach.," 20 May 2018 Every previous diplomatic effort to ease the Korean standoff has foundered on effectively verifying the North's willingness to dismantle its weapons programs -- and its propensity to cheat. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump deserves credit for Korean thaw," 27 Apr. 2018 So now there is fretting about his elongated throwing motion and his propensity to commit turnovers. Mark Maske,, "Will the 2018 quarterback draft class be memorably great or memorably disappointing?," 22 Apr. 2018 His propensity to generate headlines isn’t really the issue. Andy Staples,, "Why Florida's Successful Chris Leak/Tim Tebow QB Model Probably Isn't Right for Alabama This Year," 12 July 2018 Timmons wasn’t afraid to go after Bright during the campaign, saying his propensity toward less mainstream ideas – such as creating a state currency for South Carolina – would prevent him from being an effective congressman. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "William Timmons wins South Carolina primary runoff election to replace Trey Gowdy in Congress," 28 June 2018 Okogie is a 6-foot-4, 213-pound guard who was named to the All-ACC third team in 2018 — his status as a prospect hinges on his defense and all-around contributions, including a propensity for steals. Brendan Marks, charlotteobserver, "Pair of Duke stars headlines ACC-to-NBA pipeline during first round of NBA draft," 21 June 2018 For all his success over eight major league seasons — a career .282/.342/.437 hitting line — Eric Hosmer has a propensity to get into funks at the plate. Kevin Acee,, "Padres' Eric Hosmer working to catch next wave," 7 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

20 Sep 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).


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!