pro·​pen·​si·​ty prə-ˈpen(t)-sə-tē How to pronounce propensity (audio)
plural propensities
: an often intense natural inclination or preference

Did you know?

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.

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web The important thing is that in taking a strong stand on behalf of Israel, Mr. Biden is appealing to swing voters who have a high propensity to vote over young people who have the lowest. Mark Penn, WSJ, 9 Nov. 2023 These tiny devices are perfect for keeping track of keys, checked luggage while traveling or anything else that has a propensity to go missing. Nick Guy,, 1 Nov. 2023 There is a propensity to write off such misconduct as a victimless crime. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2023 Today, scientists have identified several genes that appear to influence weight, indicating that genetics can play a significant role in a person's propensity to obesity. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 20 Sep. 2023 Walker anchors the defense for the Gladiators, also showing her propensity to create offense with five goals and eight assists as a sophomore. Jacob Steinberg, Baltimore Sun, 2 Sep. 2023 And the films in question are weighty features, ones that grapple with humanity’s propensity for violence, selfishness, and revenge. Fran Hoepfner, Vulture, 27 Oct. 2023 Then there was his band’s debilitating drug abuse, chaotic infighting and propensity for starting its concerts hours late. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Sep. 2023 Now, as then, the scientific data on the propensity of certain breeds to attack humans is frustratingly inconclusive. Mark Landler, New York Times, 15 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'propensity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from New Latin prōpensitāt-, prōpensitās, from Latin prōpensus "weighted down, inclined, having a disposition or tendency" + -itāt-, -itās -ity — more at propense

First Known Use

1570, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of propensity was in 1570


Dictionary Entries Near propensity

Cite this Entry

“Propensity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​pen·​si·​ty prə-ˈpen(t)-sət-ē How to pronounce propensity (audio)
plural propensities
: a natural inclination or liking : bent
a propensity for bright colors
a propensity to daydream

More from Merriam-Webster on propensity

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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