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From Latin instinctus, past participle of instinguere (to incite, to instigate), from in (in, on) + stinguere (to prick)



instinct (countable and uncountable, plural instincts)

  1. A natural or inherent impulse or behaviour.
    Many animals fear fire by instinct.
    • Shakespeare
      By a divine instinct, men's minds mistrust / Ensuing dangers.
    • 1921, Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind:
      In spite of these qualifications, the broad distinction between instinct and habit is undeniable. To take extreme cases, every animal at birth can take food by instinct, before it has had opportunity to learn; on the other hand, no one can ride a bicycle by instinct, though, after learning, the necessary movements become just as automatic as if they were instinctive.
  2. An intuitive reaction not based on rational conscious thought.
    an instinct for order; to be modest by instinct
    Debbie's instinct was to distrust John.

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instinct (comparative more instinct, superlative most instinct)

  1. (archaic) Imbued, charged (with something).
    • Milton
      The chariot of paternal deity [] / Itself instinct with spirit, but convoyed / By four cherubic shapes.
    • Brougham
      a noble performance, instinct with sound principle
    • 1928, HP Lovecraft, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’:
      This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters.

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Borrowed from Latin instinctus.



instinct m (plural instincts)

  1. instinct

Related terms[edit]