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[im-puhl-siv] /ɪmˈpʌl sɪv/
actuated or swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses:
an impulsive child.
having the power or effect of impelling; characterized by impulsion:
impulsive forces.
inciting to action:
the impulsive effects of a revolutionary idea.
Mechanics. (of forces) acting momentarily; not continuous.
late Middle English
1375-1425 for an earlier sense; 1545-55 for current senses; late Middle English impulsif < Medieval Latin impulsīvus. See impulse, -ive
Related forms
impulsively, adverb
impulsiveness, impulsivity, noun
nonimpulsive, adjective
nonimpulsively, adverb
nonimpulsiveness, noun
unimpulsive, adjective
unimpulsively, adverb
Can be confused
compulsive, impulsive, impetuous (see synonym study at impetuous)
1. rash, quick, hasty. See impetuous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for impulsively
  • Dropping them in frustration, he impulsively set off to follow his brother.
  • Such training focuses on correcting undesirable social habits, such as acting impulsively or being a bad listener.
  • He ate and drank impulsively in heavy meals at long intervals.
  • They act impulsively with acts of violence many times, because they don't know how to communicate.
  • One afternoon, he impulsively purchases a hat, which is promptly stolen.
  • Instead of wasting away in their shared hospital room, they impulsively flee in a stolen car.
  • impulsively she visits a bar and flirts aggressively with a stranger, with whom she ends up spending the night in another town.
  • After they struck up a conversation, he impulsively said he was the author, and one thing led to another.
  • impulsively, she tossed the huge formal bouquet in her arms into the air.
  • Some may act impulsively or go to extremes to protect themselves.
British Dictionary definitions for impulsively


characterized by actions based on sudden desires, whims, or inclinations rather than careful thought: an impulsive man
based on emotional impulses or whims; spontaneous: an impulsive kiss
forceful, inciting, or impelling
(of physical forces) acting for a short time; not continuous
(of a sound) brief, loud, and having a wide frequency range
Derived Forms
impulsively, adverb
impulsiveness, noun
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 impulsively

1768; see impulsive + -ly (2).



early 15c., originally in reference to medicine that reduces swelling or humors, from Middle French impulsif or directly from Medieval Latin impulsivus, from Latin impuls-, past participle stem of impellere (see impel). Of persons, "rash, characterized by impulses," from 1847.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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impulsively in Medicine

impulsive im·pul·sive (ĭm-pŭl'sĭv)

  1. Inclined or tending to act on impulse rather than thought.

  2. Motivated by or resulting from impulse.

im·pul'sive·ness or im'pul·siv'i·ty n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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