stim·​u·​lus | \ ˈstim-yə-ləs How to pronounce stimulus (audio) \
plural stimuli\ ˈstim-​yə-​ˌlī How to pronounce stimuli (audio) , -​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)

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Unlike dolphins and seals that have military jobs, fish and shrimp wouldn’t need to be trained--they’re just naturally reacting to stimuli that just happens to be a potentially hostile undersea vehicles. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "DARPA Wants to Turn Sealife Into a Giant Submarine Detection Network," 5 Mar. 2019 For a small 2018 study involving 27 children around the age of 4, the researchers watched how the young brains responded to different stimuli. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "The Secret Power of the Children’s Picture Book," 18 Jan. 2019 Three, different kinds of stimuli create different kinds of product. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Full Q&A: Ezra Klein and Kara Swisher on the future of journalism," 12 Dec. 2018 This time, Beijing’s stimulus might not pack the same punch. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "As China Faces Slowdown, Stimulus Will Have Smaller Global Reach," 16 Mar. 2019 The bank phased out a 2.6 trillion-euro bond purchase stimulus at the end of last year. David Mchugh, The Seattle Times, "Survey points to no rebound for slowing Germany economy," 19 Feb. 2019 Your head will be spinning from all the gossip, so be sure to carve out time to process all the stimuli. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What October's Virgo Horoscope Means for You," 30 Sep. 2018 One theory holds that reducing stimuli at night might work, but she wasn't sold on the idea of crating him in the dark for hours. Author: Karin Brulliard, Anchorage Daily News, "It’s a boy! Chicken owners face a dilemma when hens turn out to be roosters.," 19 June 2018 And don’t forget the earlier stimulus, from the Obama administration and Congress, and from the Bernanke Federal Reserve, that pulled the country out of the Great Recession and started it on a slow but steady recovery. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "So far, economy’s Big Mo’ can’t be stopped by scandal or bad policies," 5 Feb. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of stimulus

1684, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stimulus


Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about stimulus

Statistics for stimulus

Last Updated

20 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stimulus

The first known use of stimulus was in 1684

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce stimulus (audio) \
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 How to pronounce stimulus (audio) \
plural stimuli\ -​ˌlī How to pronounce stimuli (audio) , -​ˌlē How to pronounce stimuli (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


having no equal

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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