AskDefine | Define instant

Dictionary Definition

instant adj
1 occurring with no delay; "relief was instantaneous"; "instant gratification" [syn: instantaneous, instant(a)]
2 in or of the present month; "your letter of the 10th inst" [syn: inst]
3 demanding attention; "clamant needs"; "a crying need"; "regarded literary questions as exigent and momentous"- H.L.Mencken; "insistent hunger"; "an instant need" [syn: clamant, crying, exigent, insistent]


1 a very short time (as the time it takes the eye blink or the heart to beat); "if I had the chance I'd do it in a flash" [syn: blink of an eye, flash, heartbeat, jiffy, split second, trice, twinkling, wink, New York minute]
2 a particular point in time; "the moment he arrived the party began" [syn: moment, minute, second]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (RP) /ˈɪnstənt/

Etymology 1

From instans “a moment of time”, formed as the adjective.


  1. A very short period of time; a moment.
    • She paused for only an instant, which was just enough time for John to change the subject.
  2. A single, usually precise, point in time.
    • The instant the alarm went off, he fled the building.
  3. An instant beverage or food, especially instant coffee.
period of time
  • trreq Chinese
  • Czech: okamžik, moment
  • Danish: øjeblik
  • Dutch: moment, ogenblik, poosje
  • Esperanto: momento
  • Finnish: hetki
  • French: instant
  • German: Augenblick
  • trreq Hebrew
  • Hungarian: pillanat
  • Italian: istante, attimo
  • Japanese: 瞬間
  • Portuguese: instante
  • Russian: мгновение, момент
  • trreq Spanish
  • trreq Swahili
  • trreq Swedish
  • trreq Turkish
point in time
  • Czech: okamžik, moment
  • Danish: øjeblik
  • Dutch: moment, ogenblik
  • Esperanto: momento
  • Finnish: hetki
  • French: instant
  • Hungarian: pillanat
  • Italian: istante
  • Japanese: 瞬間
  • Portuguese: instante
  • Russian: мгновение, момент
instant beverage or food
  • Japanese: 即席, インスタント
  • Romanian: instant

Etymology 2

From Old and modern French instant, from Latin instant-, present participle stem of instare “be present”, “be at hand”.
  1. Impending; imminent.
  2. Urgent; pressing; acute.
  3. Occurring immediately; immediate; present.
  4. Lasting for a short moment; momentary; short-lived.
  5. Very quickly and easily prepared (food or drink), for example instant coffee.
  6. Of the current month (abbreviation inst.)
    • “I refer to your letter of the 16th inst. in regard to traffic disruption”
Related terms
  • Dutch: onmiddelijk, ogenblikkelijk
  • Finnish: välittömästi
  • Italian: immediato
  • Japanese: 即席の, その場で決めた; 瞬時の
  • Russian: текущий
quickly prepared
of the current month
  • Japanese: 今月の





  • /ɛ̃s.tɑ̃/|lang=fr


fr-noun m
  1. instant, minute (short but unspecified period of time)

Derived terms






  1. instant



  1. instantly

Extensive Definition

The present is the time that is perceived directly, not as a recollection or a speculation. It is often considered as a hyperplane in space-time, often called now, but it may also be viewed as a duration (see specious present).
When comparing time in places separated by great distances, the notion of present becomes unclear. For example, we visually perceive stars to be where they were when the light now reaching our eyes was emitted, because even though light travels at approximately 3 x 108 m/s it takes many years to reach us from distant sources.
When used in the term "Before Present" (BP), as used in expressing ages or dates determined by radiocarbon dating, "Present" is defined as AD 1950.
Modern physics has not yet been able to explain what we normally understand by 'now'. Furthermore, there is no demonstrable reason why time should move in any one particular direction. This has led to the conclusion that the idea of a present is illusory and does not reflect the true nature of reality. The notion of "now" may be better understood as an unrealistic concept that has evolved in humans and animals to give us an understanding of reality useful only to the extent necessary for survival.

The present according to Special Relativity

It follows from Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity that there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. Therefore, if we define "present" to be the collection of events that are simultaneous with a given event, then "present" takes different meanings for different observers. Instead, with "present" defined as the events perceived directly, not as a recollection or a speculation, for a given observer "present" takes the form of the observer's past light cone. The light cone of a given event is objectively defined as the collection of events in causal relationship to that event, but each event has a different associated light cone. One has to conclude that in relativistic models of physics there is no place for "the present" as an absolute element of reality. Einstein phrased this as: "People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion".

A philosophical problem

"The present" also raises another difficult question: "How is it that all sentient beings experience "now" at the same time?" There is no logical reason why this should be the case and no easy answer to the question. For example, say somebody named John is experiencing a great deal of pain. John's friend Fred takes pity on John because of John's situation. The problem is: is it logical for Fred to feel bad for John at present, when there is no way to prove that both John and Fred experience the same temporal existence? (See also Solipsism and Philosophy of mind.)

The present in Buddhism

Buddhism and many of its associated philosophies emphasize the importance of living in the present moment — being fully aware of what is happening, and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. This does not mean that they encourage hedonism, but merely that through constantly focusing on one's current position in space and time (rather than future considerations, or past reminiscence) will aid one in relieving suffering. A number of meditative techniques aim to help the practicer live in the present moment.

Christianity and eternity

God is viewed as being outside of time and from the divine perspective past, present and future are actualised in the now of eternity. Saint Thomas Aquinas used the image of a watchman, representing God, standing on a height looking down on a valley where past present and future, represented by the individuals and their actions strung out along its length, are all visible simultaneously to God.

Eternal now

Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now (1997), argues that only the present moment exists. Tolle argues that time is an illusion, and that the past exists only as a memory stored in the mind, while the future is imagined, a projection of the mind.



  • Greene, Brian, (2004). The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41288-3
  • Stepath, Katrin, (2006). Gegenwartskonzepte., Würzburg. ISBN 3-8260-3292-6
instant in Afrikaans: Hede
instant in Tosk Albanian: Gegenwart
instant in Czech: Přítomnost
instant in Danish: Nutiden
instant in German: Gegenwart
instant in Estonian: Olevik
instant in Spanish: Presente (tiempo)
instant in Basque: Orain
instant in French: Aujourd'hui
instant in Korean: 현재
instant in Italian: Oggi
instant in Hebrew: הווה
instant in Dutch: Heden
instant in Japanese: 現在
instant in Norwegian: I dag
instant in Portuguese: Hoje (dia)
instant in Quechua: Kunan pacha
instant in Russian: Настоящее
instant in Slovak: Prítomnosť
instant in Slovenian: Sedanjost
instant in Finnish: Nykyhetki
instant in Swedish: Nutid
instant in Yiddish: היינט
instant in Contenese: 今日
instant in Chinese: 今天

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

a breath, about to be, actual, acute, alert, already in sight, approaching, apt, as is, at hand, being, bit, breath, breathing, brewing, burning, clamant, clamorous, close, close at hand, coming, compelling, contemporaneous, contemporary, coup, crack, critical, crucial, crying, current, cursory, day, decisive, demanding, dire, direct, draining, earnest, exacting, exigent, existent, existing, exorbitant, expeditious, extant, extortionate, fateful moment, festinate, feverish, flash, flying, forthcoming, fresh, furious, future, gathering, going to happen, grasping, hair-trigger, half a jiffy, half a mo, half a second, half a shake, hasty, high-pressure, high-priority, hour, hurried, immanent, immediate, imminent, impendent, impending, imperative, imperious, importunate, in danger imminent, in prospect, in reserve, in store, in the cards, in the offing, in the wind, in view, insistent, instantaneous, interval, jiff, jiffy, juncture, kairos, last-minute, latest, lightning-like, little, little bit, little while, looming, loud, lowering, lurking, menacing, microsecond, millisecond, minute, modern, moment, moment of truth, momentaneous, momentary, near, near at hand, nearing, new, no time, on the horizon, on the spot, overhanging, overnight, pair of winks, passing, period, persistent, pertinacious, pivotal, point, pregnant moment, prepared, preparing, present, present-age, present-day, present-time, pressing, presto, prompt, psychological moment, punctual, quick, quick as lightning, quick as thought, ready, ready-made, ready-mixed, running, season, sec, second, shake, short spell, short time, slap-bang, slapdash, small space, snap, space, span, speedy, spell, split second, spurt, stage, stretch, stroke, summary, superficial, swift, taxing, that be, that is, that will be, threatening, tick, time, time lag, to come, topical, trice, twink, twinkle, twinkling, twitch, two shakes, up-to-date, up-to-the-minute, upcoming, urgent, waiting, while, wink
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1