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[in-i-bish-uh n, in-hi-]
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  1. the act of inhibiting.
  2. the state of being inhibited.
  3. something that inhibits; constraint.
  4. Psychology.
    1. the blocking or holding back of one psychological process by another.
    2. inappropriate conscious or unconscious restraint or suppression of behavior, as sexual behavior, often due to guilt or fear produced by past punishment, or sometimes considered a dispositional trait.
  5. Physiology.
    1. a restraining, arresting, or checking of the action of an organ or cell.
    2. the reduction of a reflex or other activity as the result of an antagonistic stimulation.
    3. a state created at synapses making them less excitable by other sources of stimulation.
  6. Chemistry. a stoppage or decrease in the rate of action of a chemical reaction.
  7. English Ecclesiastical Law. an order, especially from a bishop, suspending a priest or an incumbent from the performance of duties.

Origin of inhibition

1350–1400; Middle English inhibicio(u)n < Latin inhibitiōn- (stem of inhibitiō). See inhibit, -ion
Related formsin·ter·in·hi·bi·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for inhibition

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Sudden death, which seems due to a phenomenon of inhibition.

    A Nest of Spies

    Pierre Souvestre

  • This professor did not explain what he meant by 'death due to inhibition'?

    A Nest of Spies

    Pierre Souvestre

  • The professor claims that death is due to a phenomenon of inhibition.

    A Nest of Spies

    Pierre Souvestre

  • We saw that in every act of attention the process of inhibition is essential.


    Hugo Mnsterberg

  • He pronounced the inhibition lengthily and sonorously, so that the 'not' sounded like 'n-o-o-o-t!'

British Dictionary definitions for inhibition


  1. the act of inhibiting or the condition of being inhibited
  2. psychol
    1. a mental state or condition in which the varieties of expression and behaviour of an individual become restricted
    2. the weakening of a learned response usually as a result of extinction or because of the presence of a distracting stimulus
    3. (in psychoanalytical theory) the unconscious restraining of an impulseSee also repression
  3. the process of stopping or retarding a chemical reaction
  4. physiol the suppression of the function or action of an organ or part, as by stimulation of its nerve supply
  5. Church of England an episcopal order suspending an incumbent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for inhibition


late 14c., "formal prohibition; interdiction of legal proceedings by authority;" also, the document setting forth such a prohibition, from Old French inibicion and directly from Latin inhibitionem (nominative inhibitio) "a restraining," from past participle stem of inhibere "to hold in, hold back, keep back," from in- "in, on" (see in- (2)) + habere "to hold" (see habit). Psychological sense of "involuntary check on an expression of an impulse" is from 1876.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

inhibition in Medicine


(ĭn′hə-bĭshən, ĭn′ə-)
  1. The act of inhibiting or the state of being inhibited.
  2. Something that restrains, blocks, or suppresses.
  3. The conscious or unconscious restraint of a behavioral process, a desire, or an impulse.
  4. Any of a variety of processes that are associated with the gradual attenuation, masking, and extinction of a previously conditioned response.
  5. The condition in which or the process by which a reaction is inhibited.
  6. The condition in which or the process by which an enzyme is inhibited.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

inhibition in Science


  1. The blocking or limiting of the activity of an organ, tissue, or cell of the body, caused by the action of a nerve or neuron or by the release of a substance such as a hormone or neurotransmitter. Compare excitation.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

inhibition in Culture


A personal hindrance to activity or expression. For example, fear of contracting cancer might serve as an inhibition against smoking.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.