What does impulse mean?

Definitions for impulse
ˈɪm pʌlsim·pulse

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word impulse.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. urge, impulsenoun

    an instinctive motive

    "profound religious impulses"

  2. caprice, impulse, whimnoun

    a sudden desire

    "he bought it on an impulse"

  3. nerve impulse, nervous impulse, neural impulse, impulsenoun

    the electrical discharge that travels along a nerve fiber

    "they demonstrated the transmission of impulses from the cortex to the hypothalamus"

  4. pulsation, pulsing, pulse, impulsenoun

    (electronics) a sharp transient wave in the normal electrical state (or a series of such transients)

    "the pulsations seemed to be coming from a star"

  5. impulse, impulsion, impetusnoun

    the act of applying force suddenly

    "the impulse knocked him over"

  6. momentum, impulsenoun

    an impelling force or strength

    "the car's momentum carried it off the road"


  1. Impulsenoun

    A mental force which simply and directly urges to action; hasty inclination; sudden motive; momentary or transient influence of appetite or passion; propension; incitement; as, a man of good impulses; passion often gives a violent impulse to the will; to buy something on impulse.


  1. impulsenoun

    A thrust; a push; a sudden force that impels.

  2. impulsenoun

    A wish or urge, particularly a sudden one.

  3. impulsenoun

    The integral of force over time.

    The total impulse from the impact will depend on the kinetic energy of the bullet.

  4. Etymology: From impulsus.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. IMPULSEnoun

    Etymology: impulsus, Latin.

    If these little impulses set the great wheels of devotion on work, the largeness and height of that shall not at all be prejudiced by the smalness of its occasion. Robert South, Sermons.

    Bodies produce ideas in us manifestly by impulse. John Locke.

    Bodies, from the impulse of a fluid, can only gravitate in proportion to their surfaces, and not according to their quantity of matter, which is contrary to experience. George Cheyne.

    Mean time, by Jove's impulse, Mezentius arm'd,
    Succeeded Turnus. John Dryden, Æn.

    These were my natural impulses for the undertaking; but there was an accidental motive, which was full as forcible. Dry.

    Moses saw the bush burn without being consumed, and heard a voice out of it: this was something, besides finding an impulse upon his mind to go to Pharaoh, that he might bring his brethren out of Egypt. John Locke.

    Like two great rocks against the raging tide,
    Unmov'd the two united chiefs abide,
    Sustain th' impulse, and receive the war. Matthew Prior.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Impulsenoun

    the act of impelling, or driving onward with sudden force; impulsion; especially, force so communicated as to produced motion suddenly, or immediately

  2. Impulsenoun

    the effect of an impelling force; motion produced by a sudden or momentary force

  3. Impulsenoun

    the action of a force during a very small interval of time; the effect of such action; as, the impulse of a sudden blow upon a hard elastic body

  4. Impulsenoun

    a mental force which simply and directly urges to action; hasty inclination; sudden motive; momentary or transient influence of appetite or passion; propension; incitement; as, a man of good impulses; passion often gives a violent impulse to the will

  5. Impulseverb

    to impel; to incite

  6. Etymology: [See Impel.]


  1. Impulse

    In classical mechanics, impulse is defined as the integral of a force with respect to time, which gives you the change in the momentum of the body being acted on by the force. A force causes acceleration, a change in the velocity of the body, for as long as it acts. A force applied over a long time therefore produces a bigger change in momentum than the same force applied briefly: the change in momentum is equal to the product of force and time. Conversely, a small force applied for a long time can produce the same change in momentum - the same impulse - as a large force applied briefly. The SI unit of impulse is the newton second; the quantity of impulse is force × time interval, or in shorthand notation:

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Impulse

    im′puls, n. the act of impelling: effect of an impelling force: force suddenly communicated: influence on the mind.—n. Impul′sion, impelling force: instigation.—adj. Impuls′ive, having the power of impelling: actuated by mental impulse: (mech.) acting by impulse: not continuous.—adv. Impuls′ively.—n. Impuls′iveness. [L. impulsus, pressure—impellĕre.]

The Standard Electrical Dictionary

  1. Impulse

    (a) An electro-magnetic impulse is the impulse produced upon the luminiferous ether by an oscillatory discharge or other varying type of current; the impulse is supposed to be identical, except as regards wave-length, with a light wave. (b) An electro-motive impulse is the electro-motive force which rises so high as to produce an impulsive or oscillatory discharge, such as that of a Leyden jar.

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. impulse

    The act of impelling, or driving onward with sudden force; impulsion; the action of a force so as to produce motion suddenly, or without appreciable loss of time. Also sudden motion exciting to action; hasty inclination; influence acting unexpectedly, or with momentary force; impression; instigation; as, the troops moved forward with one impulse.

British National Corpus

  1. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'impulse' in Nouns Frequency: #2785

How to pronounce impulse?

How to say impulse in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of impulse in Chaldean Numerology is: 3

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of impulse in Pythagorean Numerology is: 5

Examples of impulse in a Sentence

  1. Margaret Thatcher:

    When we gave the figure of 50 years, we were not speaking casually or on impulse, but in consideration of the realities in China and of our need for development.

  2. Paul Christopher:

    Now you need another impulse to move higher.

  3. Melania Geymonat:

    The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them, on an impulse, I went over there only to find her face bleeding and three of them beating her up. The next thing I know is I'm being punched.

  4. David Seabury:

    Nature is at work.. Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.

  5. Bertrand Piccard:

    More than an achievement in the history of aviation, Solar Impulse has made history in energy, i’m sure that within the next 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes carrying 50 passengers on short- to medium-haul flights.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for impulse

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

Get even more translations for impulse »


Find a translation for the impulse definition in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Gaeilge (Irish)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"impulse." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 20 Mar. 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/impulse>.

Discuss these impulse definitions with the community:


    Are we missing a good definition for impulse? Don't keep it to yourself...

    Browse Definitions.net

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Chrome

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Firefox

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!


    Are you a words master?

    (of especially persons) lacking sense or understanding or judgment
    • A. busy
    • B. witless
    • C. handsome
    • D. plush

    Nearby & related entries:

    Alternative searches for impulse: