1 [in-stingkt]
an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.
a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency.
a natural aptitude or gift: an instinct for making money.
natural intuitive power.

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin instinctus prompting, instigation, enthusiasm, equivalent to *insting(uere) (in- in-2 + *sting(u)ere presumably, to prick; see distinct) + -tus suffix of v. action

3. genius, knack, faculty, talent. Unabridged


2 [in-stingkt]
filled or infused with some animating principle (usually followed by with ): instinct with life.
Obsolete. animated by some inner force.

1530–40; < Latin instinctus excited, roused, inspired, past participle of *insting(u)ere; see instinct1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
1.  the innate capacity of an animal to respond to a given stimulus in a relatively fixed way
2.  inborn intuitive power
3.  a natural and apparently innate aptitude
adj (often foll by with)
4.  rare
 a.  animated or impelled (by)
 b.  imbued or infused (with)
[C15: from Latin instinctus roused, from instinguere to incite; compare instigate]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1412, "a prompting," from L. instinctus "instigation, impulse," pp. of instinguere "to incite, impel," from in- "on" + stinguere "prick, goad" (see instigation). Sense of "innate tendency" is first recorded 1568, from notion of "natural prompting."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

instinct in·stinct (ĭn'stĭngkt')

  1. An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli.

  2. A powerful motivation or impulse.

in·stinc'tive or in·stinc'tu·al (ĭn-stĭngk'chōō-əl) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
instinct   (ĭn'stĭngkt')  Pronunciation Key 
An inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences. Instead, instinctive behavior develops in the same way for all individuals of the same species or of the same sex of a species. For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen. Behavior in animals often reflects the influence of a combination of instinct and learning. The basic song pattern of many bird species is inherited, but it is often refined by learning from other members of the species. Dogs that naturally seek to gather animals such as sheep or cattle into a group are said to have a herding instinct, but the effective use of this instinct by the dog also requires learning on the dog's part. Instinct, as opposed to reflex, is usually used of inherited behavior patterns that are more complex or sometimes involve a degree of interaction with learning processes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

instinct definition

Behavior that is not learned but passed between generations by heredity.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Among his gifts was a powerful physical instinct, almost a sixth sense for
  knowing how nature should work.
Instinct might suggest that a full-throttle, intense cheese deserves a great
The natural instinct with small yards is to choose only compact, ground-hugging
Winemakers today must rely on what winemakers have relied on for millennia:
  instinct and past experience.
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