Origin of instant

1350–1400; 1910–15; for def 8; Middle English < Latin instant- (stem of instāns) present participle of instāre to be present, urgent, equivalent to in- in-2 + -stā- stand + -nt- present participle suffix

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

Examples from the Web for instant

Contemporary Examples of instant

Historical Examples of instant

  • The venerable Persian gazed at her for an instant, and then clasped her to his bosom.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • One swift glance had shown him there was no way of instant retreat.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She was lost, for the instant, in a maze of disagreeable reflection.

  • And accordingly, when he wakened in the middle of the night, he was alert on the instant.

  • He had his revolver on the fellow in the instant, and yet he held his fire.

British Dictionary definitions for instant



a very brief time; moment
a particular moment or point in timeat the same instant
on the instant immediately; without delay


immediate; instantaneous
(esp of foods) prepared or designed for preparation with very little time and effortinstant coffee
urgent or imperative
(postpositive) (when abbreviated in formal correspondence)
  1. of the present montha letter of the 7th instant Abbreviation: inst Compare proximo, ultimo
  2. currently under consideration


a poetic word for instantly

Word Origin for instant

C15: from Latin instāns, from instāre to be present, press closely, from in- ² + stāre to stand
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 instant

late 14c., "infinitely short space of time," from Old French instant (adj.) "assiduous, at hand," from Medieval Latin instantem (nominative instans), in classical Latin "present, pressing, urgent," literally "standing near," present participle of instare "to urge, to stand near, be present (to urge one's case)," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Elliptical use of the French adjective as a noun.


mid-15c., "present, urgent," from Old French instant (14c.), from Latin instantem (nominative instans) "pressing, urgent," literally "standing near" (see instant (n.)). Meaning "now, present" is from 1540s, and led to the use of the word in dating of correspondence, in reference to the current month, often abbreviated inst. and persisting at least into the mid-19c. Thus 16th inst. means "sixteenth of the current month." Sense of "immediately" is from 1590s. Of foods, by 1912. Televised sports instant replay attested by 1965. Instant messaging attested by 1994.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper