Definitions

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

  • n. An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli: the spawning instinct in salmon; altruistic instincts in social animals.
  • n. A powerful motivation or impulse.
  • n. An innate capability or aptitude: an instinct for tact and diplomacy.
  • adj. Deeply filled or imbued: words instinct with love.
  • adj. Obsolete Impelled from within.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A natural or inherent impulse or behaviour.
  • n. An intuitive reaction not based on rational conscious thought.
  • adj. Imbued, charged (with something).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Urged or stimulated from within; naturally moved or impelled; imbued; animated; alive; quick.
  • n. Natural inward impulse; unconscious, involuntary, or unreasoning prompting to any mode of action, whether bodily, or mental, without a distinct apprehension of the end or object to be accomplished.
  • n. Specif., the natural, unreasoning, impulse by which an animal is guided to the performance of any action, without thought of improvement in the method.
  • n. A natural aptitude or knack; a predilection
  • transitive v. To impress, as an animating power, or instinct.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Urged or animated from within; moved inwardly; infused or filled with some active principle: followed by with.
  • To impress as by an animating influence; communicate as an instinct.
  • n. A special innate propensity, in any organized being, but more especially in the lower animals, producing effects which appear to be those of reason and knowledge, but which transcend the general intelligence or experience of the creature; the sagacity of brutes.
  • n. Natural intuitive power; innate power of perception or intuition.
  • n.

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

  • adj. (followed by `with')deeply filled or permeated
  • n. inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli

Etymologies

Middle English, from Latin īnstīnctus, impulse, from past participle of īnstinguere, to incite : in-, intensive pref.; see in-2 + stinguere, to prick; see steig- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin instinctus, past participle of instinguere ("to incite, to instigate"), from in ("in, on") + stinguere ("to prick") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Thus, if we consider only those typical cases in which the complete triumph of intelligence and of instinct is seen, we find this essential difference between them: _instinct perfected is a faculty of using and even of constructing organized instruments; intelligence perfected is the faculty of making and using unorganized instruments_.

    Evolution créatrice. English

  • Let us adopt then words sanctioned by usage, and give the distinction between intelligence and instinct this more precise formula: _Intelligence, in so far as it is innate, is the knowledge of a_ form; _instinct implies the knowledge of a_ matter.

    Evolution créatrice. English

  • Once upon a time, the term instinct was perfect way to explain things that we didn't completely understand at the time.

    Archive 2009-08-01

  • To apply the term instinct to the regular and involuntary movements of the bodily organs, such as the beating of the heart and the action of the organs of respiration, is manifestly an extension of the ordinary acceptation of the term.

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 05, No. 31, May, 1860

  • This wisdom is often classed by the unknowing under the term instinct, whereas it displays no less skill and knowledge than that of our modern surgery.

    The Human Side of Animals

  • As we breed animals for the transmission of physical attributes, so the Kaldanes breed themselves for the transmission of attributes of the mind, including memory and the power of recollection, and thus have they raised what we term instinct, above the level of the threshold of the objective mind where it may be commanded and utilized by recollection.

    The Chessmen of Mars

  • McDougall obviously employs the term instinct in a much more comprehensive and inclusive sense than Shand does.

    The Journal of Abnormal Psychology

  • There is a growing tendency in biology and comparative psychology to restrict the term instinct to inherited purposive adaptations.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 8: Infamy-Lapparent

  • In both popular and scientific literature the term instinct has been given such a variety of meanings that it is not possible to frame for it an adequate definition which would meet with general acceptance.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 8: Infamy-Lapparent

  • Kaldanes breed themselves for the transmission of attributes of the mind, including memory and the power of recollection, and thus have they raised what we term instinct, above the level of the threshold of the objective mind where it may be commanded and utilized by recollection.

    The Chessmen of Mars

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  • ...their immense magnitude renders it very hard really to believe that such bulky masses of overgrowth can possibly be instinct, in all parts, with the same sort of life that lives in a dog or a horse...

    - Melville, Moby-Dick, ch. 58

    July 26, 2008