- an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.
- a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency.
- a natural aptitude or gift: an instinct for making money.
- natural intuitive power.
Origin of instinct1
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
- filled or infused with some animating principle (usually followed by with): instinct with life.
- Obsolete. animated by some inner force.
Origin of instinct2
Examples from the Web for instinct
Certainly my instinct is to identify with the police, no matter the circumstance.A Veteran’s View: NYC Cold War Between Cops and City Hall
December 29, 2014
In a flash he deflects the shot, with the speed of instinct, right past the goalkeeper.Is Soccer Great Lionel Messi Corrupt?
December 8, 2014
The human desire for knowledge and exploration is an absolute good, and we need to follow that instinct.Christopher Nolan Uncut: On ‘Interstellar,’ Ben Affleck’s Batman, and the Future of Mankind
November 10, 2014
At times he was wobbly about whether he really had enough sources to support what his instinct told him was the truth.Murdoch on the Rocks: How a Lone Reporter Revealed the Mogul's Tabloid Terror Machine
August 25, 2014
With so few resources, they get by on little more than instinct and family love.Filming a Beautiful Town in Decay: ‘Rich Hill’ and the Elusive American Dream
Tracy Droz Tragos
July 27, 2014
She said it, as if guided by an instinct, to sound the depth of his love for her.Malbone
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
What instinct made you choose that shade of pale green for your frock?Viviette
William J. Locke
Yet she wondered if the instinct were not dormant, needing but the suggestion.
Was it an instinct, she wondered—a reminder that there was in them material for manhood?
His instinct of sympathy with which he had greeted her at the outset was repelled, and made of no avail.Within the Law
- the innate capacity of an animal to respond to a given stimulus in a relatively fixed way
- inborn intuitive power
- a natural and apparently innate aptitude
- rare (postpositive often foll by with)
- animated or impelled (by)
- imbued or infused (with)
Word Origin and History for instinct
early 15c., "a prompting," from Latin instinctus "instigation, impulse," noun use of past participle of instinguere "to incite, impel," from in- "on" (see in- (2)) + stinguere "prick, goad," from PIE *steig- "to prick, stick, pierce" (see stick (v.)). Meaning "animal faculty of intuitive perception" is from mid-15c., from notion of "natural prompting." Sense of "innate tendency" is first recorded 1560s.
- An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli.
- A powerful motivation or impulse.
- An inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences. Instead, instinctive behavior develops in the same way for all individuals of the same species or of the same sex of a species. For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen. Behavior in animals often reflects the influence of a combination of instinct and learning. The basic song pattern of many bird species is inherited, but it is often refined by learning from other members of the species. Dogs that naturally seek to gather animals such as sheep or cattle into a group are said to have a herding instinct, but the effective use of this instinct by the dog also requires learning on the dog's part. Instinct, as opposed to reflex, is usually used of inherited behavior patterns that are more complex or sometimes involve a degree of interaction with learning processes.
Behavior that is not learned but passed between generations by heredity.