Definition of instinct in English:


Syllabification: in·stinct


Pronunciation: /ˈinstiNGkt
  • 1An innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli: birds have an instinct to build nests maternal instincts
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    • This is a sociable little animal with strong maternal instincts.
    • Valentin aims to balance the cubs' need for care and attention with the wild instincts the growing animals need for survival.
    • This instinct caused animals to form close-knit, evenly spaced groups, as seen in real mammal herds and fish schools.
  • 1.1A natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking: they retain their old authoritarian instincts
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    • Beware of intuition and gut instincts, they are completely unreliable.
    • She sees a younger version of herself in Rose, especially the way she relies on her instincts and intuition.
    • We should listen to our own instincts, our own intuitions and our own bodies.
    natural tendency, inherent tendency, inclination, urge, drive, compulsion, need; intuition, feeling, hunch, sixth sense, insight; nose
  • 1.2A natural propensity or skill of a specified kind: his instinct for making the most of his chances
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    • The natural instinct for self enhancement of professional status has led most practitioners to subscribe to organisations overtly raising standards.
    • ‘You've certainly not got a natural instinct for this,’ he says in his blunt way.
    • He has a natural instinct for framing an argument.
  • 1.3The fact or quality of possessing innate behavior patterns: instinct told her not to ask the question
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    • In fact, instinct usually lets you know whether a child is essentially happy with a care arrangement or whether that morning misery will last the rest of the day.
    • It was woman's distinctive moral qualities - feeling and instinct - that were thought to dull her abilities to practice science.
    • In other words, we possess culture in addition to instinct.


Pronunciation: /inˈstiNGkt
[predic.] (instinct with) • formal Back to top  
  • Imbued or filled with (a quality, especially a desirable one): these canvases are instinct with passion
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    • How oft, instinct with warmth divine, thy threshold have I trod!



Pronunciation: /insˈtiNGkCHo͞oəl/
More example sentences
  • Psychoanalytical theory presupposes that human beings are pushed and pulled by unconscious instinctual impulses.
  • His mathematical genius was inborn and instinctual.
  • The answer came in human startle responses, which are involuntary and instinctual.


More example sentences
  • She may sleep for four hours at night, but I will only get two of those four hours because it takes me an hour to fall asleep, and I instinctually wake up an hour before she starts crying.
  • And they are viscerally and instinctually opposed to war.
  • They instinctually recognise universal human rights, and never let ‘popular’ human rights dictate policy.


late Middle English (also in the sense 'instigation, impulse'): from Latin instinctus 'impulse', from the verb instinguere, from in- 'toward' + stinguere 'to prick'.

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a slit made by cutting with a saw