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[in-stuh nt] /ˈɪn stənt/
an infinitesimal or very short space of time; a moment:
They arrived not an instant too soon.
the point of time now present or present with reference to some action or event.
a particular moment:
at the instant of contact.
a food or beverage, especially coffee, specially processed for quick preparation.
Older Use. the present or current month.
succeeding without any interval of time; prompt; immediate:
instant relief from a headache.
pressing or urgent:
instant need.
noting a food or beverage requiring a minimal amount of time and effort to prepare, as by heating or the addition of milk or water, before being served or used:
instant coffee; instant pudding.
occurring, done, or prepared with a minimal amount of time and effort; produced rapidly and with little preparation:
an instant book; instant answers; instant history.
designed to act or produce results quickly or immediately:
an instant lottery.
Older Use. of the present month:
your letter of the 12th instant.
Abbreviation: inst.
Compare proximo, ultimo.
present; current:
the instant case before the court.
Origin of instant
1350-1400; 1910-15; for def 8; Middle English < Latin instant- (stem of instāns) present participle of instāre to be present, urgent, equivalent to in- in-2 + -stā- stand + -nt- present participle suffix
1. second, twinkling, flash, jiffy, trice. See minute1 . Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for instant
  • He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and the next instant she felt his arms about her, and his lips on her own lips.
  • instant messaging services, which are in essence directories for keeping track of who is online at any moment, are even larger.
  • And investigators say that they are unable to monitor instant messaging.
  • Their visibility and prestige can give them instant friends and enemies on campus, either of which can provide distractions.
  • One supercharged province cranks out instant cities for factory workers.
  • It contains boxes of macaroni, cornmeal, instant chocolate-flavored drink mix and nonfat dried milk.
  • So, don't fire off an application the instant you read the ad.
  • But every local can answer that question in an instant.
  • We've all heard scantily clad spokespeople make bogus claims about instant weight-loss supplements on late-night television.
  • White lights are instant magic, strung overhead or threaded into baskets.
British Dictionary definitions for instant


a very brief time; moment
a particular moment or point in time: at the same instant
on the instant, immediately; without delay
immediate; instantaneous
(esp of foods) prepared or designed for preparation with very little time and effort: instant coffee
urgent or imperative
(postpositive) (when abbreviated in formal correspondence)
  1. of the present month: a letter of the 7th instant, inst Compare proximo, ultimo
  2. currently under consideration
a poetic word for instantly
Word Origin
C15: from Latin instāns, from instāre to be present, press closely, from in-² + stāre to stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for instant

late 14c., "infinitely short space of time," from Old French instant (adj.) "assiduous, at hand," from Medieval Latin instantem (nominative instans), in classical Latin "present, pressing, urgent," literally "standing near," present participle of instare "to urge, to stand near, be present (to urge one's case)," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Elliptical use of the French adjective as a noun.


mid-15c., "present, urgent," from Old French instant (14c.), from Latin instantem (nominative instans) "pressing, urgent," literally "standing near" (see instant (n.)). Meaning "now, present" is from 1540s, and led to the use of the word in dating of correspondence, in reference to the current month, often abbreviated inst. and persisting at least into the mid-19c. Thus 16th inst. means "sixteenth of the current month." Sense of "immediately" is from 1590s. Of foods, by 1912. Televised sports instant replay attested by 1965. Instant messaging attested by 1994.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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