stim·​u·​lus | \ ˈstim-yə-ləs \
plural stimuli\ ˈstim-​yə-​ˌlī , -​ˌlē \

Definition of stimulus

: something that rouses or incites to activity: such as
a : incentive
c : an agent (such as an environmental change) that directly influences the activity of a living organism or one of its parts (as by exciting a sensory organ or evoking muscular contraction or glandular secretion)

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Examples of stimulus in a Sentence

The pay raise was a stimulus for production. Heat and light are physical stimuli. The dog responded to the stimulus of the ringing bell.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Meanwhile, urged on by U.S. officials, Japan embarked on a quick stimulus program to boost imports. Peter Landers, WSJ, "The Old U.S. Trade War With Japan Looms Over Today’s Dispute With China," 13 Dec. 2018 In addition, nearly a quarter reported that certain stimuli (like engine noises) startled them and caused flashbacks. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Pearl Harbor Still Holds a Few Mysteries," 7 Dec. 2018 The central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro left its key interest rates and the end-date for its stimulus program unchanged at its meeting in Frankfurt, Germany. David Mchugh, The Seattle Times, "European Central Bank sticks to plan to end stimulus," 25 Oct. 2018 The European Central Bank on Thursday will publish an account of its June monetary policy meeting, shedding light on the thinking behind the decision to end its main stimulus program after the end of the year. New York Times, "Moguls Rub Shoulders in Idaho, and China Releases Trade Numbers," 8 July 2018 The Bank of Japan decided on Friday to keep its stimulus program on track, for example. Stan Choe, USA TODAY, "US stocks and bond yields dip amid trade worries with China," 15 June 2018 While Japan's central bank isn't expected to make any major policy shifts, anticipation is rising that the ECB may outline as early as this week plans to begin paring its bond-buying stimulus program as a prelude to ending them altogether. Martin Crutsinger,, "Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes," 13 June 2018 Congress approved a $496 billion, five-year economic stimulus package at the behest of former President Bill Clinton in August 1993. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Trump, GOP plan to rescind budget spending has precedent but rocky path in Congress," 2 Oct. 2018 Don't heal them, and jobs programs and stimulus packages likely will go nowhere. John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Help wanted: Trauma-focused social workers to stop downward spiral in Milwaukee," 4 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stimulus.' 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 stimulus

1684, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stimulus


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Statistics for stimulus

Last Updated

12 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stimulus

The first known use of stimulus was in 1684

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More Definitions for stimulus



English Language Learners Definition of stimulus

: something that causes something else to happen, develop, or become more active

: something that causes a change or a reaction


stim·​u·​lus | \ ˈsti-myə-ləs \
plural stimuli\ -​ˌlī, -​ˌlē \

Kids Definition of stimulus

1 : something that stirs or urges to action The reward was a stimulus for greater effort.
2 : an influence that acts usually from outside the body to partly change bodily activity (as by exciting a receptor or sense organ) Light, heat, and sound are common physical stimuli.


stim·​u·​lus | \ ˈstim-yə-ləs \
plural stimuli\ -​ˌlī , -​ˌlē \

Medical Definition of stimulus

2 : an agent (as an environmental change) that directly influences the activity of living protoplasm (as by exciting a sensory organ or evoking muscular contraction or glandular secretion) a visual stimulus

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Comments on stimulus

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


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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