Somebody recently requested the word instinct, which is great, because I've wanted to cover that one for a while. It was first attested in the early fifteenth century in a history of the city of Troy, and comes from an Old French with the same spelling and meaning. That came in the fourteenth century from Latin instinctus, which could mean either "instigation" or "inspiration". Either way, it's something that compels people to do things, and it derives from the verb instiguere, meaning "incite". That's composed of the prefix in-, meaning "into", and stinguere, meaning "prick" or "goad". Apparently the idea was that something that was instinctual was instigated by something pricking into you. Stinguere, which is also the root present in extinguish, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction stegw, "to thrust".
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.