noun, plural stim·u·li [stim-yuh-lahy] /ˈstɪm yəˌlaɪ/.

something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought, etc.: The approval of others is a potent stimulus.
Physiology, Medicine/Medical. something that excites an organism or part to functional activity.

Origin of stimulus

1605–15; < Latin: a goad
Related formsin·ter·stim·u·lus, noun, plural in·ter·stim·u··stim·u·lus, adjectivepre·stim·u·lus, noun, plural pre·stim·u·li.un·der·stim·u·lus, noun, plural un·der·stim·u·li.

Synonyms for stimulus

Antonyms for stimulus Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stimuli

Contemporary Examples of stimuli

  • Should there be another stimulus—the third, after the Bush and first Obama stimuli?

    The Daily Beast logo
    Economic Deathmatch

    Tunku Varadarajan

    October 24, 2010

Historical Examples of stimuli

  • He was simply the most tremendous response to stimuli I have ever known.

    Alexander's Bridge and The Barrel Organ

    Willa Cather and Alfred Noyes

  • It responded to its stimuli, whenever they came and whatever their source.


    Robert Sheckley

  • It seemed as if her spirit were no longer able to respond to the stimuli of life on earth.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • The stimuli may be applied to, or may act upon, any part of the nerve.

    Special Report on Diseases of the Horse

    United States Department of Agriculture

  • In such a case we call the engrams of the two stimuli "associated."

    The Analysis of Mind

    Bertrand Russell

British Dictionary definitions for stimuli


noun plural -li (-ˌlaɪ, -ˌliː)

something that stimulates or acts as an incentive
any drug, agent, electrical impulse, or other factor able to cause a response in an organism
an object or event that is apprehended by the senses
med a former name for stimulant

Word Origin for stimulus

C17: from Latin: a cattle goad
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 stimuli

Latinate plural of stimulus.



plural stimuli, 1680s, originally as a medical term, "something that goads a lazy organ" (often the male member), from Modern Latin stimulus "goad" (see stimulation). General sense is from 1791. Psychological sense is first recorded 1894.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

stimuli in Medicine



n. pl. stim•u•li (-lī′)

A stimulant.
That which can elicit or evoke an action or response in a cell, an excitable tissue, or an organism.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

stimuli in Science



Plural stimuli (stĭmyə-lī′)

Physiology Something that can elicit or evoke a physiological response in a cell, a tissue, or an organism. A stimulus can be internal or external. Sense organs, such as the ear, and sensory receptors, such as those in the skin, are sensitive to external stimuli such as sound and touch.
Something that has an impact or an effect on an organism so that its behavior is modified in a detectable way. See more at classical conditioning.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

stimuli in Culture


plur. stimuli (stim-yuh-leye)

An action, condition, or person that provokes a response, especially a conditioned response.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.