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

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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 But the actor's propensity for staying fresh during intimate scenes isn't unique to Hunt's approach. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 10 May 2024 Yet Albini, who died Tuesday at age 61, was almost equally revered for his straightforward criticisms of the record industry and its propensity to corrupt the purity of creative expression. Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for propensity 

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 20 May. 2024.

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

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