in·​stinc·​tive | \ in-ˈstiŋ(k)-tiv How to pronounce instinctive (audio) \

Definition of instinctive

1 : of, relating to, or being instinct
2 : prompted by natural instinct or propensity : arising spontaneously an instinctive fear of innovation— V. L. Parrington

Other Words from instinctive

instinctively adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for instinctive



  • nonmechanical
Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for instinctive

spontaneous, impulsive, instinctive, automatic, mechanical mean acting or activated without deliberation. spontaneous implies lack of prompting and connotes naturalness. a spontaneous burst of applause impulsive implies acting under stress of emotion or spirit of the moment. impulsive acts of violence instinctive stresses action involving neither judgment nor will. blinking is an instinctive reaction automatic implies action engaging neither the mind nor the emotions and connotes a predictable response. his denial was automatic mechanical stresses the lifeless, often perfunctory character of the response. a mechanical teaching method

Examples of instinctive in a Sentence

Cats have an instinctive desire to hunt. the instinctive reaction of a mother is to protect her children
Recent Examples on the Web On defense, Torcasio is an instinctive and disruptive talent. Patrick Z. Mcgavin,, 9 Dec. 2021 For Stewart, there was something primal and instinctive in the relationship between this mother and her two sons, royal or not. Iris Goldsztajn, Marie Claire, 1 Nov. 2021 Actions that were once immediate and instinctive require more time and thought. Anurag Kotoky, Fortune, 15 Oct. 2021 Taking action based on data becomes seamless, automatic and instinctive for all. Ashley Kramer, Forbes, 15 Oct. 2021 For Villeneuve, the process is bodily, instinctive and intuitive. New York Times, 13 Oct. 2021 In 2015, reinforcement learning was used to train a computer to play Go, a subtle and instinctive board game, with superhuman skill. Will Knight, Wired, 8 Oct. 2021 Its single-tap feature is seamless and instinctive to use. Talia Abbas, Glamour, 23 Sep. 2021 And we were led by Tenet, who had natural and instinctive leadership skills. CBS News, 22 Sep. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Learn More About instinctive

Time Traveler for instinctive

Time Traveler

The first known use of instinctive was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near instinctive




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for instinctive

Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Instinctive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for instinctive



English Language Learners Definition of instinctive

: relating to or based on instinct : based on feelings or desires that do not come from thinking or learning


in·​stinc·​tive | \ in-ˈstiŋk-tiv How to pronounce instinctive (audio) \

Kids Definition of instinctive

: of or relating to instinct : resulting from instinct instinctive behavior

Other Words from instinctive

instinctively adverb


in·​stinc·​tive | \ in-ˈstiŋ(k)-tiv How to pronounce instinctive (audio) \

Medical Definition of instinctive

1 : of, relating to, or being instinct
2 : derived from or prompted by instinct an instinctive fear

Other Words from instinctive

instinctively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on instinctive

Nglish: Translation of instinctive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of instinctive for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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