Definition of impulse noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈɪmpʌls//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈɪmpʌls//
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  1. 1[countable, usually singular, uncountable] impulse (to do something) a sudden strong wish or need to do something, without stopping to think about the results He had a sudden impulse to stand up and sing. I resisted the impulse to laugh. Her first impulse was to run away. The door was open and on (an) impulse she went inside. He tends to act on impulse.
  2. 2[countable] (specialist) a force or movement of energy that causes something else to react nerve/electrical impulses The impulse is conducted along the length of the wire.
  3. 3[countable, usually singular, uncountable] (formal) something that causes somebody/something to do something or to develop and make progress to give an impulse to the struggling car industry He was motivated by the impulse for social reform.
  4. Word Originearly 17th cent. (as a verb in the sense ‘give an impulse to’): the verb from Latin impuls- ‘driven on’, the noun from impulsus ‘impulsion’, both from the verb impellere, from in- ‘towards’ + pellere ‘to drive’.Extra examples Acting on impulse, he picked up the keys and slipped them into his pocket. He fought down an impulse to scream. Impulses that are repeatedly denied can arise in other forms. My first impulse was to run away. Nerve impulses are transmitted to the brain. On an impulse, I went in and bought a box of chocolates. Radio waves are converted into electrical impulses. She felt a sudden impulse to look to her left. She gave in to an impulse and took the money. Some people will buy a pet on impulse without any idea of what is involved. Supermarkets sell candy as impulse items at the checkout counter. The little black designer dress had been an impulse buy. We are all subject to aggressive impulses. basic impulses towards things such as food and drink the impulse behind a concept the impulse for social reform the impulse that prompted economic change the political impulses towards joining a trade union He tends to act on impulse. The door was open and on an impulse she went inside.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: impulse

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