What does instinct mean?
Definitions for instinct
This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word instinct.
instinct, inherent aptitudeadjective
inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli
"the spawning instinct in salmon"; "altruistic instincts in social animals"
(followed by `with')deeply filled or permeated
"imbued with the spirit of the Reformation"; "words instinct with love"; "it is replete with misery"
A natural or inherent impulse or behaviour.
Many animals fear fire by instinct.
An intuitive reaction not based on rational conscious thought.
Debbie's instinct was to distrust John.
Urged or stimulated from within, infused
Etymology: From instinctus, past participle of instinguere, from in + stinguere
Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
Moved; animated. A word not in use.
Etymology: instinct, Fr. instinctus, Lat.
Forth rush'd with whirlwind sound
The chariot of paternal deity,
Flashing thick flames, wheel within wheel undrawn,
Itself instict with spirit, but convoy'd
By four cherubick shapes. John Milton, Par. Lost, b. vi.
Desire or aversion acting in the mind without the intervention of reason or deliberation; the power determining the will of brutes.
Etymology: instinct, Fr. instinctus, Lat. This word had its accent formerly on the last syllable.
In him they fear your highness' death;
And mere instinct of love and loyalty
Makes them thus forward in his banishment. William Shakespeare.
Thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules; but beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true prince: instinct is a great matter. I was a coward on instinct: I shall think the better of myself and thee, during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thee for a true prince. William Shakespeare, Henry IV. p. i.
But providence or instinct of nature seems,
Or reason though disturb'd, and scarce consulted,
To have guided me aright. John Milton, Agonist. l. 1545.
Nature first pointed out my Portius to me,
And easily taught me by her secret force
To love thy person, e'er I knew thy merit;
Till what was instinct grew up into friendship. Addison.
The philosopher avers,
That reason guides our deed, and instinct theirs.
Instinct and reason how shall we divide? Matthew Prior.
Reason serves when press'd;
But honest instinct comes a volunteer. Alexander Pope.
Instinct is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behaviour, containing both innate (inborn) and learned elements. The simplest example of an instinctive behaviour is a fixed action pattern (FAP), in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a corresponding clearly defined stimulus. Any behaviour is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will instinctively move toward the ocean. A marsupial climbs into its mother's pouch upon being born. Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behaviour, internal escape functions, and the building of nests. Though an instinct is defined by its invariant innate characteristics, details of its performance can be changed by experience; for example, a dog can improve its listening skills by practice. Instincts are inborn complex patterns of behaviour that exist in most members of the species, and should be distinguished from reflexes, which are simple responses 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. 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.Instinctual behaviour in humans has been studied, and is a controversial topic.
urged or stimulated from within; naturally moved or impelled; imbued; animated; alive; quick; as, birds instinct with life
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
specif., the natural, unreasoning, impulse by which an animal is guided to the performance of any action, without of improvement in the method
a natural aptitude or knack; a predilection; as, an instinct for order; to be modest by instinct
to impress, as an animating power, or instinct
Etymology: [L. instinctus, p. p. of instinguere to instigate, incite; cf. instigare to instigate. Cf. Instigate, Distinguish.]
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.
Chambers 20th Century Dictionary
in′stingkt, n. impulse: an involuntary prompting to action: intuition: the mental aspect of those actions which take rank between unconscious reflex activities and intelligent conduct: the natural impulse by which animals are guided apparently independent of reason or experience.—adj. (in-stingkt′) instigated or incited: moved: animated.—adj. Instinc′tive, prompted by instinct: involuntary: acting according to or determined by natural impulse.—adv. Instinc′tively.—n. Instinctiv′ity (rare). [L. instinctus—instinguĕre, to instigate.]
U.S. National Library of Medicine
Stereotyped patterns of response, characteristic of a given species, that have been phylogenetically adapted to a specific type of situation.
Intuition or intuitive feeling, knowing or thought.
He said his instinct told him to carry out acts of kindness towards his fellow human beings to he acted according to his instinct.
Submitted by MaryC on January 18, 2016
British National Corpus
Rank popularity for the word 'instinct' in Nouns Frequency: #2015
The numerical value of instinct in Chaldean Numerology is: 8
The numerical value of instinct in Pythagorean Numerology is: 9
Examples of instinct in a Sentence
I had a dialogue with both [of them]. They both visited me here before the war. And I always believe that in dialogue we always move forward, you know who doesn't know how to talk? Animals. They are pure instinct.
They didn’t do their job. I believed the crowd was going to be bigger — just my instinct — and they had the chance to call up the National Guard three days before Jan. 6, and if they did, Jan. 6 would have been a very different day, but they didn’t do it.
I was balling like a baby, i was so proud of her and I was so touched and moved by her vulnerability and by her finding this moment in herself. I think thats part of the maternal instincts in me that I was so touched. Thats something that you cant prep for, its just instinct.
When you are exposed to this toxic stress, the fight or flight instinct is all you have, whether you’re being attacked by a bear in the woods or your father comes home drunk and screaming at you, these kids can shut down or they can become hypersensitive and ready to fight at the slightest provocation.
Financial institutions are fully capable of learning their own history and understanding their own roles in past injustice, next, they must work to ensure that they counter contemporary wrongs and avoid the easier instinct to think of historical context as separate from current circumstances – and be held accountable in doing so by the federal government, by shareholders, and by customers.
Popularity rank by frequency of use
Translations for instinct
From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary
- سليقة, غريزه, غريزة, فطرةArabic
- 본능, 本能Korean
- garizah, insting, naluriMalay
- tshekameloSouthern Sotho
- insiyak, içgüdü, sevkitabiiTurkish
- 本能, bản năngVietnamese
Get even more translations for instinct »
Find a translation for the instinct 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?
Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:
"instinct." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 1 Jun 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/instinct>.
Discuss these instinct definitions with the community:
We're doing our best to make sure our content is useful, accurate and safe.
If by any chance you spot an inappropriate comment while navigating through our website please use this form to let us know, and we'll take care of it shortly.
You need to be logged in to favorite.