• adjective immediate, happening immediately
  • noun a very short period of time



  • adjective used for describing food that is quickly and easily prepared, and is usually sold in a premixed, precooked or powdered form


  • adjective immediately available


  • abbreviationinst

Origin & History of “instant”

Latin instāre meant ‘be present’ (it was a compound verb formed from the prefix in- ‘upon’ and stāre ‘stand’). Its present participle instāns was used adjectivally for ‘present’, and hence by extension for ‘urgent’. The latter was actually the meaning originally taken up by English, but it has now virtually died out. ‘Present’ was introduced in the mid-16th century (it now survives in the abbreviation inst, used in giving dates to signify ‘the present month’), and by the end of the century this had evolved into the main current sense ‘immediate’. The noun instant ‘moment’ comes from medieval Latin tempus instāns ‘present time’. Derived from instāns was the Latin noun instantia ‘presence, urgency’. again it was the latter that originally came into English with instance (14th c.). The main modern sense ‘example’, first recorded in the 16th century, appears to come ultimately from a semantic progression in medieval Latin from ‘urgency’ to ‘eager solicitation’ and hence to ‘legal pleading’. further metaphoricization took it on to ‘new argument or example adduced to counter a previous one’, and hence in due course to simply ‘example’.