What impulsive means

Impulsive Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

im·​pul·​sive im-ˈpəl-siv 



: arising from an impulse

an impulsive decision


: prone to act on impulse

an impulsive young man


: acting momentarily


: having the power of or actually driving or impelling

impulsively adverb

impulsiveness noun





  • besetting
  • compulsive
  • driven
  • obsessional
  • obsessive

See all Synonyms & Antonyms in Thesaurus 

Example Sentences

I couldn't make out exactly what had happened, though I could guess how it started—the two of them talking, kidding around when Mrs. Ramsey came down to the library basement to file some periodicals, an impulsive kiss in the stacks … —Tobias Wolff, Old School, 2003 There was an odd nobility, a knight-errant quality, about Alan—in his willingness to suffer for the sake of life itself, in his tendency to view himself under harsher light than he would turn on others, in his impulsive generosity. —Tracy Kidder, Home Town, 1999 So speaks Maude Bailey, the celibate feminist scholar heroine of A. S. Byatt's fifth novel, as, in an impulsive collusion with a male scholar she scarcely knows, she runs off to Brittany. —Joyce Carol Oates, Vogue, November 1990

She's impulsive and often does things that she later regrets. He needs to learn to control his impulsive behavior. She made an impulsive decision to quit her job. See More

Recent Examples on the Web For instance, public health researchers agree that suicide is typically an impulsive act, often aborted before completion — and that the majority of people who survive an initial suicide attempt never make a second try. —Russ Juskalian, Discover Magazine, 13 Aug. 2019 The second theme, Andrew, that jumped out to me is that Putin is impulsive. —CBS News, 7 Dec. 2022 Which gets us to thinking this: Maybe these fixtures do indeed cost three grand when a sucker, one who is highly impulsive and spends without much forethought, is willing to pay that much? —Curbed, 13 July 2022 Too-intense workouts can make athletes more impulsive, according to a study published today in Current Biology. —Leslie Nemo, Discover Magazine, 26 Sep. 2019 Displays of impulsive behavior were part of her history. —Molly Parker, ProPublica, 22 Dec. 2022 While knowing about Ye's bipolar diagnosis may help explain impulsive behavior or grandiose gestures, antisemitism is a reflection of toxic societal beliefs – one espoused by bigoted people without diagnosable mental illness. —Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY, 11 Oct. 2022 As for Zachariah Fairfax, whose Triad pants are now sold at Nordstrom and basically sold out, the decision wasn’t impulsive but entirely accidental. —Tara Gonzalez, Harper's BAZAAR, 13 Dec. 2022 But while Lucia might have a bigger plan in mind with Albie, Mia seems a bit more impulsive and reckless in her decision-making. —Ethan Shanfeld, Variety, 8 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impulsive. ' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


see impulse entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler

The first known use of impulsive was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry



“Impulsive.Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impulsive. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

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Kids Definition



im·​pul·​sive im-ˈpəl-siv 


: acting or tending to act on impulse


: resulting from a sudden impulse

impulsively adverb

impulsiveness noun

Medical Definition



im·​pul·​sive im-ˈpəl-siv 


: having the power of or actually driving or impelling


: actuated by or prone to act on impulse

impulsive behavior


: acting momentarily

brief impulsive auditory stimuli

impulsively adverb

impulsiveness noun




plural impulsivities

More from Merriam-Webster on


Nglish: Translation of impulsive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impulsive for Arabic Speakers

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Impulsive Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.

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[ im-puhl-siv ]

/ ɪmˈpʌl sɪv /

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See synonyms for: impulsive / impulsively / impulsiveness on Thesaurus.com

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.


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.


1 rash, quick, hasty.

See synonyms for impulsive on Thesaurus.com



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Origin of impulsive

First recorded in 1375–1425 for an earlier sense; 1545–55 for current senses; late Middle English impulsif, from Medieval Latin impulsīvus; see origin at impulse, -ive

synonym study for impulsive

1. See impetuous.


im·pul·sive·ly, adverbim·pul·siv·i·ty [im-puhl-siv-i-tee], /ɪmˌpʌlˈsɪv ɪ ti/, im·pul·sive·ness, nounnon·im·pul·sive, adjectivenon·im·pul·sive·ly, adverb

un·im·pul·sive, adjectiveun·im·pul·sive·ly, adverb


1. compulsive, impulsive 2. impetuous, impulsive (see synonym study at impetuous)

Words nearby impulsive

impuissant, impulse, impulse buying, impulse turbine, impulsion, impulsive, impulsivity, impundulu, impunity, impure, impurity

Dictionary. com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Words related to impulsive

abrupt, hasty, impetuous, instinctive, offhand, passionate, spontaneous, violent, ad-lib, automatic, careless, devil-may-care, emotional, extemporaneous, flaky, headlong, intuitive, involuntary, mad, precipitate

How to use impulsive in a sentence

  • Sometimes my best work will be rather spontaneous or impulsive.

    Remote Work Is All Gen Z Knows. But Are They Satisfied?|Raisa Bruner|August 16, 2021|Time

  • What makes his decision seem impulsive and even dangerous is that Unity is still far short of becoming the kind of thoroughly tested and reliable vehicle that would be able to fly passengers on a regular schedule.

    Richard Branson's Big Space D*ck Contest with Bezos is Reckless—and Potentially Deadly|Clive Irving|July 2, 2021|The Daily Beast

  • In my highs, I was drinking compulsively and taking impulsive risks in the mountains as a coping strategy.

    We Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Mountains|Drew Petersen|June 30, 2021|Outside Online

  • Her team uses computer games like this to measure how cautious or impulsive people are.

    Search for ‘rewards’ is big driver in remodeling a teen’s brain|Silke Schmidt|April 22, 2021|Science News For Students

  • It tries to exert self-control by tamping down the limbic system’s impulsive urges.

    Teen depression linked to how the brain processes rewards|Alison Pearce Stevens|March 18, 2021|Science News For Students

  • So, did Opperud make the plan and then get the impulsive Lane to come with him at the last second?

    How To Plan A Jailbreak|Seth Ferranti|September 13, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • But Hezbollah has more pressing strategic imperatives today, and Nasrallah is not known as an impulsive leader.

    Hezbollah Talks Big but Bows Out of the Gaza War|Jamie Dettmer|July 23, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Griffith is hardly alone amongst the lovelorn, impulsive, and unfortunately tattooed.

    Melanie, Leave Antonio On Your Arm: The Emotional Politics of Tattoos|Lizzie Crocker|June 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • As someone who spent time with him in his 2008 campaign put it, he would have been an impulsive, perilous president.

    Obama’s All Eisenhower On Russia|Robert Shrum|March 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • And while depression often keeps its victims from thinking clearly, the Internet encourages impulsive behavior.

    More Shocking Than Online Suicides Are the Crowds Who Clamor to Watch|Caitlin Dickson|December 10, 2013|DAILY BEAST

  • In his childlike, impulsive fashion he had not thought of the future when he adopted Jean.

    The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol|William J. Locke

  • Eloquent in speech, warm-hearted and impulsive, he found it difficult to resist a joke, even at the expense of his friend.

    Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland|Joseph Tatlow

  • I made an impulsive forward movement, but Dr. Silence instantly dragged me back.

    Three More John Silence Stories|Algernon Blackwood

  • This habit is an outcome of our frank, impulsive character; but the Scotch would be slow in appreciating it.

    Friend Mac Donald|Max O'Rell

  • In their habits they resembled children, being sensitive and impulsive, fond of play, and very quick in their motions.

    Man And His Ancestor|Charles Morris

British Dictionary definitions for impulsive


/ (ɪmˈpʌlsɪv) /


characterized by actions based on sudden desires, whims, or inclinations rather than careful thoughtan impulsive man

based on emotional impulses or whims; spontaneousan 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 of impulsive

impulsively, adverbimpulsiveness, 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

What does impulsive mean - Definition of words

Dictionary of medical terms

Explanatory dictionary of the Russian language. D.N. Ushakov


impulsive, impulsive; impulsive, impulsive impulsive (book). Involuntary, irresistibly caused by something. impulse (in 2 values; physiol.). impulsive actions.

Impetuous, acting under the influence of random impulses. Impulsive person.

Explanatory dictionary of the Russian language. S.I. Ozhegov, N.Yu. Shvedova.


th, -th; -veins, -vna (book).

  1. Involuntary impulse triggered (in 2 digits). impulsive movements.

  2. Impetuous, acting under the influence of random impulses (in 2 digits). impulsive nature.

    n. impulsiveness, -and, f. IMUT [3 l. pl. h. from the old verb imata): the dead have no shame (high) - those who died in the struggle do not know shame.

New explanatory and derivational dictionary of the Russian language, T. F. Efremova.



  1. Inclined to act on impulse (1*3).

  2. Impulse triggered (1*3).

Great Soviet Encyclopedia

Examples of the use of the word impulsive in the literature.

To a person familiar with the style of work of impulsive artistic natures, Hitler's unsystematic distribution of his daily routine would be reminiscent of a bohemian lifestyle.

Not having time to give free rein to his first impulsive impulse to leave after the Vilnius drama A.

When, after dinner, the guests again gathered in Major Selezny's room, Dubov glanced shrewdly at the baroness: - Judging by how detailed and, I would say, impulsively you talked about an insignificant jug in the presence of Mr. Ryzhy, you saved the main thing for our narrow circle, didn’t you?

Since the cost of buildings of this kind would have to be higher than on normal sites, I advised Hitler to reward developers for all these additional millions invested, which he impulsively approved.

No matter how creative and skillful you are, if you don't understand your relationships with others, if you act haughty, spiteful or impulsive, no one will stay around you long enough to admire your art and creativity.

He impulsively waved his hand to the crowd: - Thank you very much for your attention, gentlemen.

That's what happens when you act impulsively, - Hack said with a good-natured smile, releasing his hand from her prehensile fingers, his other hand supporting Meira by the shoulders.

The intricate impulsive rhythm of this five-part instrumental canvas is based on the principles of virtuoso folk performance and on the techniques of modern composer technique.

Wounded vanity, the easily wounded soul of an artist who believed in his talent and reacted especially impulsively to the severity and captiousness of the jury?

Bodhisattva Manjushri is also associated with compassion, but more intellectual than impulsive.

Kostya has an impulsive character, his mood changes very easily.

The woman threw off her slippers and climbed onto the couch next to him, stepping her knees over his impulsively tensed legs.

The second people turned out to be impetuous and impulsive, they tossed between Akkad and Egypt and finally rejected all the gods.

Ivo noted that she, too, had a kind of insensitivity, like Brad, although perhaps it was only an impulsive reaction.

Yagich impulsively leaned forward, hurrying to help, and Valk, holding her with his outstretched hand, calmly, as if it was a sports distance, announced: - Excellent, son!

Source: Maxim Moshkov Library

Impulsivity: what are impulsive people?

Impulsivity is a character trait common to many people. When a person is impulsive, he usually behaves like this without even thinking about its consequences. They do not think about what their actions can produce for themselves and for others. They don't think if they can cause discomfort, hurt or harm anyone. They act according to their own impulses and emotions without analyzing anything else... they allow themselves to be carried away by what they feel, no matter the reason.

It has been shown that this impulsive behavior may have genetic and hereditary components. In fact, there are disorders whose characteristics include impulsivity, such as hyperactivity or bipolar disorder. People cannot put off their desires and get carried away by what they feel in the moment.


  • 1 impulsive behavior
  • 2 Causes
  • 3 Symptoms
  • 4 Diagnostics
  • 5 How to be less impulsive
      5.4 Ask a friend or family member to help you
    • 5.5 See a therapist

Impulsive behavior

The word impulse means to do something. Impulsivity can be defined as a special way of perceiving the world in which there is a predisposition to act uncontrollably and quickly when confronted with an event, internal or external stimulus. There is a flaw in a person's analytical judgment, which means that he does not think about the consequences of his actions.

Therefore, impulsive behavior is a tendency to act without thinking about the consequences of one's actions, and these actions usually occur in response to some event that caused an emotional reaction in a person.


Neuroscience has opened the way, impulse and idea become behavior in the brain and, finally, uncontrollable coercion. The photographs show that some people have difficulties. Postpone the increase in remuneration for a longer period of time.

Impulsive behavior is closely related to neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, which is associated with learning and reinforcement. There may be physiological aspects that may explain impulsive and repetitive behavior. There are receptor disturbances in the frontal lobe, especially in the prefrontal cortex, where executive functions are responsible for decision making and judgment.

This means that the brain core, located in the part of the brain that makes decisions, makes a detour and looks for the fastest way to get a reward without much thought and effort. Impulsive behavior can be explained by less active dopamine receptors in the middle region of the brain, which is responsible for making logical decisions. These receptors may also explain the propensity for impulsive people to become depressed.

As with drug and gambling addictions, impulsive behavior results in action regret that is not enough to stop the behavior earlier.


There are some components that distinguish impulsive behavior from other behavior. Symptoms that may be associated with impulse are:

  • Failure to plan or prepare: Driven by our impulses, we cannot prepare for expected logical consequences; on the contrary, surprise becomes the main characteristic where "anything can happen."
  • Low self control. No restrictions or self-control.
  • Low persistence. Emotions dictate the next step. It becomes very difficult to overcome delay.
  • Look for new experiences. Under the influence of strong positive or negative emotions, our cognitive abilities to plan and evaluate various alternatives are distorted, which leads to the fact that we later regret spontaneous decisions.

Each impulse is individual and has different consequences: from eating an extra piece of cake when we shouldn't, to stealing, breaking things, and even self-mutilation. In the abyss of impulsive behavior, even our lives, or the lives of those we love, can be at risk. Emotional state is key in this behavior; During this process, the brain releases emotional states that color the perception of reality, making it difficult for a person not to feel the urge to act. Therefore, the rational thought process is disturbed people cannot assess their actions and consequences.


Anyone can fall prey to impulsive behavior at any time in life...Although once it becomes a habit it can become a very serious problem for a person who lacks the self-control needed to function properly. If you think that impulsive behavior is controlling your life, you will need to contact a specialist to help you. about how to lead your life and that being impulsive doesn't destroy you little by little.

The specialist uses special tools, questionnaires and interviews to determine the risk of impulsive behavior and establish therapeutic measures. There are also specialized tests that can help determine how impulsive you are and train your mind to suppress this impulsive behavior.

How to be less impulsive

Being less impulsive is in your hands, because it is your mind that makes you more or less impulsive. If you want to stop this behavior, follow these tips and you will see your life begin to improve.

Take a deep breath

If you think you are going to act impulsively, stop for a moment and take 10 deep breaths. This will help your body get the oxygen it needs to reduce anxiety levels.

Wait Before Acting

Count to 50 while breathing before doing what is on your mind, that is, what your mind tells you to do. This time, you will calm down and reduce your impulsive behavior.

Learn more