Definitions for instinctˈɪn stɪŋkt

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word instinct

Random House Webster's College Dictionary

in•stinctˈɪn stɪŋkt(n.)

  1. an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.

  2. a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency.

  3. a natural aptitude or gift:

    an instinct for making money.

  4. natural intuitive power.

Origin of instinct:

1375–1425; late ME < L instinctus prompting, instigation, enthusiasm =*insting(uere) (in-in -2+*sting(u)ere presumably, to prick; see distinct ) +-tus suffix of v. action


  1. filled or infused with some animating principle (usu. fol. by with):

    instinct with life.

Origin of instinct:

1530–40; < L instinctus excited, roused, inspired, ptp. of *insting(u)ere; see instinct1

Princeton's WordNet

  1. instinct, inherent aptitude(adj)

    inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli

    "the spawning instinct in salmon"; "altruistic instincts in social animals"

  2. instinct(p), replete(p)(adj)

    (followed by `with')deeply filled or permeated

    "imbued with the spirit of the Reformation"; "words instinct with love"; "it is replete with misery"

Kernerman English Learner's Dictionary

  1. instinct(noun)ɪnˈstɪŋkt

    natural reactions and abilities that are done without thinking

    the animal's instinct to protect its young; He has an instinct for relating to ordinary people.; It's best to trust your instincts when deciding who to hire.


  1. instinct(Noun)

    A natural or inherent impulse or behaviour.

    Many animals fear fire by instinct.

  2. instinct(Noun)

    An intuitive reaction not based on rational conscious thought.

    Debbie's instinct was to distrust John.

  3. instinct(Adjective)

    Urged or stimulated from within, infused

  4. Origin: From instinctus, past participle of instinguere, from in + stinguere

Webster Dictionary

  1. Instinct(adj)

    urged or stimulated from within; naturally moved or impelled; imbued; animated; alive; quick; as, birds instinct with life

  2. Instinct(adj)

    natural inward impulse; unconscious, involuntary, or unreasoning prompting to any mode of action, whether bodily, or mental, without a distinct apprehension of the end or object to be accomplished

  3. Instinct(adj)

    specif., the natural, unreasoning, impulse by which an animal is guided to the performance of any action, without of improvement in the method

  4. Instinct(adj)

    a natural aptitude or knack; a predilection; as, an instinct for order; to be modest by instinct

  5. Instinct(verb)

    to impress, as an animating power, or instinct


  1. Instinct

    Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular complex behavior. The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern, in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus. Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience, and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. A joey climbs into its mother's pouch upon being born. Honeybees communicate by dancing in the direction of a food source without formal instruction. Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and the building of nests. All of these are examples of complex behaviors and are thus substantially different from simple reflex behaviors. An instinct should be distinguished from a reflex, which is a simple response of an organism to a specific stimulus, such as the contraction of the pupil in response to bright light or the spasmodic movement of the lower leg when the knee is tapped. Instincts, in contrast, are inborn complex patterns of behavior that must exist in every member of the species and that cannot be overcome by force of will. However, the absence of volitional capacity must not be confused with an inability to modify fixed action patterns. For example, people may be able to modify a stimulated fixed action pattern by consciously recognizing the point of its activation and simply stop doing it, whereas animals without a sufficiently strong volitional capacity may not be able to disengage from their fixed action patterns, once activated.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

  1. Instinct

    Stereotyped patterns of response, characteristic of a given species, that have been phylogenetically adapted to a specific type of situation.

British National Corpus

  1. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'instinct' in Nouns Frequency: #2015

Translations for instinct

Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary


a natural tendency to behave or react in a particular way, without thinking and without having been taught

As winter approaches, swallows fly south from Britain by instinct; He has an instinct for saying the right thing.

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