Definition of instinct in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈinstiNG(k)t/
1An innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli: birds have an instinct to build nests maternal instincts
More example sentences
  • 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;
1.2A natural propensity or skill of a specified kind: his instinct for making the most of his chances
More example sentences
  • 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.
talent, gift, ability, aptitude, faculty, skill, flair, feel, genius, knack, bent
1.3The fact or quality of possessing innate behavior patterns: instinct told her not to ask the question
More example sentences
  • 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/
[predicative] (instinct with) formal
Imbued or filled with (a quality, especially a desirable one): these canvases are instinct with passion
More example sentences
  • How oft, instinct with warmth divine, thy threshold have I trod!


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

  • The word instinct is from Latin instinctus ‘impulse’, from the verb instinguere: the base is Latin stinguere ‘to prick’ which gives a core notion of ‘urge’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·stinct

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