Definition of instant in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈɪnst(ə)nt/


1Happening or coming immediately: the offence justified instant dismissal
More example sentences
  • The proposed Employment Law Reform Bill will change the requirement for instant dismissal in the case of serious misconduct.
  • However, in some cases, instant dismissal may be justified if the conduct of the employee is serious and wilful.
  • He demanded that million dollar severance payments be banned and that directors of large companies be made liable to instant dismissal.
immediate, instantaneous, on-the-spot, prompt, direct, swift, speedy, rapid, quick, expeditious, express, lightning, sudden, precipitate, abrupt
informal snappy, p.d.q. (pretty damn quick)
literary fleet, rathe
rare alacritous
1.1Prepared quickly and with little effort: we can’t promise instant solutions
More example sentences
  • They are mass-market plants for instant gardens, quickly transforming a space.
  • A beech hedge that keeps its russet-brown leaves right through winter is the perfect instant garden solution for a bare, brand new plot.
  • The Minister warns the drought meeting will not provide instant solutions.
1.2(Of food) processed to allow very quick preparation: instant coffee
More example sentences
  • A heap of Scottish mince with instant pasta and cartoned passata can pass for lasagne.
  • Foods with high GI include white bread, potatoes, instant rice, and cornflakes.
  • The inflation rate edged up in December as a result of higher prices of key consumer products such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, and instant food.
pre-prepared, ready prepared, ready mixed, pre-cooked, fast, easy/quick to prepare, easy/quick to make, microwaveable, convenience, TV
1.3(Of a person) becoming a specified thing immediately: become an instant millionaire
More example sentences
  • Is there a downside to becoming an instant millionaire?
  • Upon leaving public service, Holbrooke became an instant millionaire executive with Credit Suisse First Boston.
  • We changed our money to Kip (we were instant millionaires), and the first thing I did with the money was pay for entering a washroom.
2 dated Urgent; pressing: an instant desire to blame others when things go wrong
More example sentences
  • To most petrolheads the combined letters ‘XKR’ demands instant desire and respect, even if the person has never driven one.
  • Here's what has changed: the presentation and the instant need to know.
3 [postpositive] dated (In business letters) of the current month: your letter of the 6th instant
More example sentences
  • I have duly received your letter of the 8th instant, on the subject of the stone in your possession, supposed meteoric.
4 archaic Of the present moment.
Example sentences
  • In the instant case, the direct given by the judge has not been shown to be inappropriate in the circumstances.
  • In the instant case, the direction given by the judge has not been shown to be inappropriate in the circumstances.


1A precise moment of time: come here this instant! at that instant the sun came out
More example sentences
  • The day has to be right for this, and the evening perfectly balanced, but it's worth waiting for the precise instant of stillness before the stars come out and the pond is just a pond once more.
  • At the precise instant that both boys entered the astounding world of 3 - D, they emitted low moans of amazement.
  • There is not enough bran in this book, not enough of the tangible grit of reality, happening at a specific instant in a precise place.
moment, time, point in time, moment in time, minute, second, hour;
stage, phase, juncture, point
2A very short time; a moment: for an instant the moon disappeared
More example sentences
  • But take to the practice field of the Calgary Rockies women's contact football team and thoughts of genteel femininity disappear in an instant.
  • ‘I would like to think they would not make that mistake,’ he warned, the friendly smile disappearing for an instant.
  • But when the children began to read the names, two years disappeared in an instant.
short time, little while, bit, moment, minute, second, split second, trice, twinkling, twinkling of an eye, flash, (less than) no time, no time at all
informal sec, nanosecond, jiffy, jiff, two shakes of a lamb's tail, the blink of an eye
British informal mo, two ticks
North American informal snap
3 [mass noun] informal Instant coffee.
Example sentences
  • Many sins are forgivable, but charging handsomely for coffee that comes directly from an outsized tin of own-label instant is not one of them.
  • But anyone who has drunk freshly ground coffee and then reverted to instant will know what I'm talking about.
  • Do you prefer fresh coffee to instant and do you purchase mineral water?


on the instant

archaic Instantly; immediately: he was thrown into the water, and on the instant the sea grew calm
More example sentences
  • I'm careful about how I report things on the instant.
  • He was thrown into the water, and on the instant the sea grew calm.
  • But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife.


Late Middle English (in sense 2 of the adjective, sense 3 of the adjective, sense 4 of the adjective): via Old French from Latin instant- 'being at hand', from the verb instare, from in- 'in, at' + stare 'to stand'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: in|stant

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.