- 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 for instinct on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for instincts
At such a moment, the pilot has no resources other than his own instincts and experience.Flight 8501 Poses Question: Are Modern Jets Too Automated to Fly?
January 4, 2015
The problem is that his instincts are wrong, his timing is bad, his hand is heavy.Why the Border Bigots Are Beating Obama
July 9, 2014
I tend to go with my instincts: if it feels right, it probably is right.Does California’s College Rape Bill Go Too Far In Regulating Sex?
June 23, 2014
Is it better to be a part of a community against your own instincts, or be your own person and be ostracized?John Slattery on the ‘Mad Men’ Midseason Finale, Roger Sterling’s Power Move, and ‘God’s Pocket’
May 26, 2014
He has not, like a modern Emerson, surrendered himself to nature, but he has, at last, found his instincts worth trusting.Saul Bellow’s Masterpiece ‘Herzog’ Turns 50 In Great Form
April 3, 2014
He had all the instincts of the hunted to seek cover, and the night was his friend.The Rock of Chickamauga
Joseph A. Altsheler
He had the trained senses and instincts of the Indian hunter.The Long Labrador Trail
Old are our instincts and passions about Nature: all are Forest Memories.Bride of the Mistletoe
James Lane Allen
As a rule women are much more the slaves of their instincts and habits than men.The Sexual Question
And is man less than a cow, that he cannot cultivate his instincts to an equal point?Beauty and The Beast, and Tales From Home
- 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 instincts
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.