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

Chinese leaders are advertising their hopes for an economic stimulus plan to emerge from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress and the National People’s Congress, confabs that rubber-stamp decisions made by President... The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Xi’s Economy Needs Trump’s Help," 8 Mar. 2019 Business and labor groups support the proposal for the jobs and economic stimulus. Washington Post, "Minnesota approves Enbridge Energy Line 3 pipeline project," 28 June 2018 Annual deficits topped $1 trillion from 2009 to 2012, due to greater spending on social safety net programs and economic stimulus, as well as slumping tax receipts as the economy cratered. Jeff Stein,, "Deficit to top $1 trillion per year by 2020, CBO says," 9 Apr. 2018 But Beijing’s recent stimulus is filtering into real estate, damaging the country’s long-term prospects. Mike Bird, WSJ, "China’s New GDP Data Shows the Economy’s Biggest Vulnerability Is Growing," 17 Apr. 2019 The opposition saw Carvajal’s criticism of Venezuela’s socialist government as a stimulus to prod other military figures to defect, but the country’s armed forces have remained largely loyal to current Maduro. Aritz Parra, The Seattle Times, "Venezuela’s ex-spy chief arrested in Madrid on US warrant," 13 Apr. 2019 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

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

1 Jun 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).


showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!