actuated or swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses: an impulsive child.
having the power or effect of impelling; characterized by impulsion: impulsive forces.
inciting to action: the impulsive effects of a revolutionary idea.
Mechanics. (of forces) acting momentarily; not continuous.

Origin of impulsive

1375–1425 for an earlier sense; 1545–55 for current senses; late Middle English impulsif < Medieval Latin impulsīvus. See impulse, -ive
Related formsim·pul·sive·ly, adverbim·pul·sive·ness, im·pul·siv·i·ty, nounnon·im·pul·sive, adjectivenon·im·pul·sive·ly, adverbnon·im·pul·sive·ness, nounun·im·pul·sive, adjectiveun·im·pul·sive·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcompulsive impulsive impetuous (see synonym study at impetuous)

Synonyms for impulsive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for impulsive

Contemporary Examples of impulsive

Historical Examples of impulsive

  • She was uneducated and ill-mannered, impulsive and quarrelsome.


    Edward J. Dent

  • With an impulsive and pretty gesture she reached out her hand to him.

  • "I don't know about that," he said, not content with this impulsive assurance.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • She placed her hand in his, and responded to the impulsive pressure with which he clasped it.

  • She drew the paper from her muff with an impulsive movement and thrust it toward him.

British Dictionary definitions for impulsive



characterized by actions based on sudden desires, whims, or inclinations rather than careful thoughtan impulsive man
based on emotional impulses or whims; spontaneousan impulsive kiss
forceful, inciting, or impelling
(of physical forces) acting for a short time; not continuous
(of a sound) brief, loud, and having a wide frequency range
Derived Formsimpulsively, adverbimpulsiveness, 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 impulsive

early 15c., originally in reference to medicine that reduces swelling or humors, from Middle French impulsif or directly from Medieval Latin impulsivus, from Latin impuls-, past participle stem of impellere (see impel). Of persons, "rash, characterized by impulses," from 1847.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

impulsive in Medicine




Inclined or tending to act on impulse rather than thought.
Motivated by or resulting from impulse.
Related formsim•pulsive•ness null n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.