pro·​pen·​si·​ty | \ prə-ˈpen(t)-sə-tē How to pronounce propensity (audio) \
plural propensities

Definition of propensity

: an often intense natural inclination or preference

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Synonyms for propensity


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web The judge concluded that prosecutors were improperly trying to show Chauvin's propensity to resort to unreasonable force. Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY, "Derek Chauvin used force against arrestees 6 other times. The jury in the George Floyd case won't hear about it.," 1 Apr. 2021 Similarly, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, though popular in his country, has shown an alarming propensity for authoritarian tactics, including cracking down on the media and political opposition. Tracy Wilkinson Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Biden looks beyond border, dispatching officials to Mexico and Guatemala," 22 Mar. 2021 Jackson’s propensity for swearing must have rubbed off on his pet, because the parrot unexpectedly launched into a blasphemous tirade. Maurizio Valsania, The Conversation, "All American presidents have made spectacles of themselves – and there’s nothing wrong with that," 18 Mar. 2021 The group’s propensity for violence and extremism was no secret. New York Times, "Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol," 14 Mar. 2021 Equally novel to me was San Francisco’s propensity toward costume parties. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "My favorite white wines to pair with Bay Area Dungeness crab, the purest joy of a short season," 11 Feb. 2021 His 11-2 postseason record and propensity for throwing strikes makes a very good pitcher. Dan Shaughnessy,, "Curt Schilling falls short of Baseball Hall of Fame induction, and that’s a good thing," 26 Jan. 2021 But who will replace a guy who, despite his propensity for making interesting decisions in the field and on the base paths, hit 32 homers and drove in 109 runs in 2019? Chris Miller, Star Tribune, "Five keys to the Twins' success in 2021," 1 Apr. 2021 Shame is perhaps best known for its propensity to spiral. Jessica Zucker, Vogue, "Why Is There So Much Silence Around Miscarriage?," 9 Mar. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of propensity

1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for propensity

see propense

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Time Traveler for propensity

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The first known use of propensity was in 1570

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Statistics for propensity

Last Updated

21 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Propensity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for propensity



English Language Learners Definition of propensity

formal : a strong natural tendency to do something


pro·​pen·​si·​ty | \ prə-ˈpen-sə-tē How to pronounce propensity (audio) \

Kids Definition of propensity

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

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