noun Animal Behavior, Psychology.

rapid learning that occurs during a brief receptive period, typically soon after birth or hatching, and establishes a long-lasting behavioral response to a specific individual or object, as attachment to parent, offspring, or site.

Origin of imprinting

1937; imprint + -ing1, translation of German Prägung, K. Lorenz's term


[noun im-print; verb im-print]


a mark made by pressure; a mark or figure impressed or printed on something.
any impression or impressed effect: He left the imprint of his thought on all succeeding scholars.
  1. the name of a book's publisher printed on the title page or elsewhere, usually with the place and date of publication.
  2. the statement of such information in a bibliographic description of a printed work.
  3. a name, title, or other designation by which all or certain specific books of a publisher are identified.
any marketing name used by a company or organization for a product line; brand or label.
the printer's name and address as indicated on any printed matter.

verb (used with object)

to impress (a quality, character, distinguishing mark, etc.).
to produce (a mark) on something by pressure.
to bestow, as a kiss.
to fix firmly on the mind, memory, etc.
Animal Behavior, Psychology. to acquire or establish by imprinting.
to make an imprint upon.

verb (used without object)

to make an impression; have an effect.

Origin of imprint

1325–75; im-1 + print; replacing Middle English empreynten < Middle French empreinter, derivative of empreinte, feminine past participle of empreindre < Latin imprimere to impress1
Related formsre·im·print, verb (used with object)un·im·print·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for imprinting

Contemporary Examples of imprinting

  • Imprinting is introduced in Eclipse as an involuntary, lifelong attachment to a soul mate.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Future of Twilight

    Natasha Vargas-Cooper

    July 1, 2010

Historical Examples of imprinting

  • He gathered her to himself, imprinting kisses upon her lips and cheeks.

    Sister Carrie

    Theodore Dreiser

  • I am almost afraid at the power she has of imprinting herself on the mind.

    Memoirs of a Midget

    Walter de la Mare

  • He put his arm about her, and drew her into a close, tender embrace, imprinting a long and ardent kiss upon the rich red lips.

    Mildred at Home

    Martha Finley

  • He kissed her cheek, imprinting thereon a Cupid's bow, by reason of his own addiction to the lipstick.

    Ptomaine Street

    Carolyn Wells

  • But Sir Francis had possessed himself of her hand, and was imprinting ardent kisses upon it.


    Julian Hawthorne

British Dictionary definitions for imprinting



the development through exceptionally fast learning in young animals of recognition of and attraction to members of their own species or to surrogates


noun (ˈɪmprɪnt)

a mark or impression produced by pressure, printing, or stamping
a characteristic mark or indication; stampthe imprint of great sadness on his face
the publisher's name and address, usually with the date of publication, in a book, pamphlet, etc
the printer's name and address on any printed matter

verb (ɪmˈprɪnt)

to produce (a mark, impression, etc) on (a surface) by pressure, printing, or stampingto imprint a seal on wax; to imprint wax with a seal
to establish firmly; impress; stampto imprint the details on one's mind
(of young animals) to undergo the process of imprinting
Derived Formsimprinter, noun
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 imprinting



late 14c., from Old French empreinter, from empreinte, noun use of fem. past participle of eimpreindre "to impress, imprint," from Vulgar Latin *impremere, from Latin imprimere "to impress, imprint" (see impress). As a noun from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

imprinting in Medicine




A learning process occurring early in the life of a social animal in which a specific behavior pattern is established through association with a parent or other role model.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

imprinting in Science



A rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction towards other animals of its own kind, as well as to specific individuals of its species, such as its parents, or to a substitute for these. Ducklings, for example, will imprint upon and follow the first large moving object they observe. In nature, this is usually their mother, but they can be made to imprint upon other moving objects, such as a soccer ball.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.