from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An impelling force; an impetus.
  • n. The motion produced by such a force.
  • n. A sudden wish or urge that prompts an unpremeditated act or feeling; an abrupt inclination: had an impulse to run away; an impulse of regret that made me hesitate; bought a hat on impulse.
  • n. A motivating force or tendency: "Respect for the liberty of others is not a natural impulse in most men” ( Bertrand Russell).
  • n. Electronics A surge of electrical power in one direction.
  • n. Physics The product obtained by multiplying the average value of a force by the time during which it acts. The impulse equals the change in momentum produced by the force in this time interval.
  • n. Physiology The electrochemical transmission of a signal along a nerve fiber that produces an excitatory or inhibitory response at a target tissue, such as a muscle or another nerve.
  • adj. Characterized by impulsiveness or acting on impulse: an impulse shopper; impulse buying.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A thrust; a push; a sudden force that impels.
  • n. A wish or urge, particularly a sudden one prompting action.
  • n. The integral of force over time.
  • v. To impel; to incite.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act of impelling, or driving onward with sudden force; impulsion; especially, force so communicated as to produced motion suddenly, or immediately.
  • n. The effect of an impelling force; motion produced by a sudden or momentary force.
  • n. The action of a force during a very small interval of time; the effect of such action.
  • n. A mental force which simply and directly urges to action; hasty inclination; sudden motive; momentary or transient influence of appetite or passion; propension; incitement
  • transitive v. To impel; to incite.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To give an impulse to; incite; instigate.
  • n. Force communicated suddenly; the effect of an impelling force; a thrust; a push.
  • n. Specifically In mech.: An infinite force or action enduring for an infinitely short time, so as to produce a finite momentum.
  • n. The resultant of all such forces acting on a body at any instant, resolved into a couple and a force along the axis of that couple.
  • n. The momentum produced by a force in any time.
  • n. A stimulation of the mind to action; the impelling force of appetite, desire, aversion, or other emotion; especially, a sudden disposition to perform some act which is not the result of reflection; sudden determination.
  • n. Any communication of force; any compelling action; instigation.
  • n. A mental impression; an idea.
  • n. Shock; onset.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the electrical discharge that travels along a nerve fiber
  • n. an impelling force or strength
  • n. an instinctive motive
  • n. (electronics) a sharp transient wave in the normal electrical state (or a series of such transients)
  • n. the act of applying force suddenly
  • n. a sudden desire


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Latin impulsus, from past participle of impellere, to impel; see impel.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin impulsus.


  • As regards studies of the abnormalities of the sexual impulse, under the name of _paradoxical sexual impulse_ cases have been published in which that impulse manifested itself at an age of life in which it is normally non-existent -- old age and childhood.

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  • However, he says, today the main impulse is to try to make the books as distinct as possible because they need to stay on the shelves longer.

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  • I do have to consciously stop myself from even asking, but the impulse is always there.

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  • What this means is that your eating isn't eternally out of control; it's out of control only at certain times, during what I call impulse moments.

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  • SIEGEL: Because our impulse is to want to see that zero balance on some loan, even if it's a relatively cheap loan that is doing us less harm than another loan.

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  • If I think of something short and pithy, my first impulse is to post a simple Twitter tweet rather than do a long weblog entry.

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  • Like many literary teenagers, I believed that art was a matter of instinct — that the artist's first impulse is the most authentic, that revision is something you do to essays but hardly applies to poetry or fiction.

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  • Her first impulse is to push it away: I tell myself it's a bummer, that diary, a sorry trip.

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  • "When you're just entering the grief mode, I guess your first impulse is to stay busy."

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