instinct

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base instinct

A subconscious urge, behavior, or intuition directed by primeval, animalistic, self-serving, and/or ignoble motivations. Greed and selfishness are unfortunately two of the base instincts ingrained in the human psyche. Though he is an upstanding citizen, when he drinks, he unfortunately succumbs to his base instincts.
See also: base, instinct

gut instinct

An intuition or feeling, as opposed to an opinion based on a logical analysis. My gut instinct about Kara's new boyfriend proved correct when we discovered he had a pretty extensive criminal history.
See also: gut, instinct

killer instinct

Cliché an inborn desire or ability to be ruthless. Fred has a real killer instinct. He's a difficult boss to work for.
See also: instinct, killer
References in classic literature ?
The seeds of instinct are preserved under the thick hides of cattle and horses, like seeds in the bowels of the earth, an indefinite period.
Mademoiselle Thirion, a cruel enemy to the girl who excelled her in everything, guessed by the instinct of jealousy that her rival's industry hid some purpose.
He had had the uncanny feeling for some time that he was being watched, and it was in response to this animal instinct that was strong within him that he had turned suddenly and surprised the eyes in the very act of watching him.
He neither plays games nor has he the instinct for them.
Several other points of resemblance between instincts and habits could be pointed out.
But from childhood his abnormally active dramatic imagination had tormented him with dreams and fears of devils and hell-fire, and now he entered on a long and agonizing struggle between his religious instinct and his obstinate self-will.
It does what it does at each stage because instinct gives it an impulse to do just that, not because it foresees and desires the result of its actions.
He had an affection for the aged disciple of Michaelis, a complex sentiment depending a little on her prestige, on her personality, but most of all on the instinct of flattered gratitude.
In every Circular or Polygonal household it has been a habit from time immemorial -- and now has become a kind of instinct among the women of our higher classes -- that the mothers and daughters should constantly keep their eyes and mouths towards their husband and his male friends; and for a lady in a family of distinction to turn her back upon her husband would be regarded as a kind of portent, involving loss of STATUS.
No: no more than you love any of your amusements from instinct.
Looking back after much love and much trouble, the instinct of primitive man, who seeks to personify the forces of Nature for his affection and for his fear, is awakened again in the breast of one civilized beyond that stage even in his infancy.
replied Sophia, "when I first beheld you the instinct of Nature whispered me that we were in some degree related--But whether Grandfathers, or Grandmothers, I could not pretend to determine.
It was this: I asked myself whether there was not in his soul some deep-rooted instinct of creation, which the circumstances of his life had obscured, but which grew relentlessly, as a cancer may grow in the living tissues, till at last it took possession of his whole being and forced him irresistibly to action.
Denis Davydov, with his Russian instinct, was the first to recognize the value of this terrible cudgel which regardless of the rules of military science destroyed the French, and to him belongs the credit for taking the first step toward regularizing this method of warfare.
An instinct is merely a habit that is stamped into the stuff of our heredity, that is all.