noun pro·pen·si·ty \prə-ˈpen(t)-sə-tē\

Definition of propensity



  1. :  an often intense natural inclination or preference

propensity was our Word of the Day on 03/23/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of propensity in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. He had a propensity for crime.

  5. the criminal propensities of the family extended over several generations

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of propensity

see propense

First Known Use: 1570

Synonym Discussion of 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

PROPENSITY Defined for English Language Learners


noun pro·pen·si·ty \prə-ˈpen(t)-sə-tē\

Definition of propensity for English Language Learners

  • : a strong natural tendency to do something

PROPENSITY Defined for Kids


noun pro·pen·si·ty \prə-ˈpen-sə-tē\

Definition of propensity for Students

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

Seen and Heard

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


feeling or affected by lethargy

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