Definition of instant in US English:



  • 1Happening or coming immediately.

    ‘the offense justified instant dismissal’
    • ‘The difference with OnePlan is that it gives borrowers instant access to this money via a mortgage chequebook.’
    • ‘The small earthenware exported to Malaysia three months ago was an instant hit there.’
    • ‘There is now a need for instant hits that immediately grab the public attention - difficult when potential viewers have so many other options.’
    • ‘What are they supposed to do - fester resentfully, or score a credit card and spend a month's salary on instant gratification?’
    • ‘Right now, the object of the game is instant wealth.’
    • ‘However, in some cases, instant dismissal may be justified if the conduct of the employee is serious and wilful.’
    • ‘If only some parts of your business need instant information, proceed accordingly.’
    • ‘The proposed Employment Law Reform Bill will change the requirement for instant dismissal in the case of serious misconduct.’
    • ‘The home side took the lead but Carbury nearly had an instant response when an effort from Paul Masterson struck the post.’
    • ‘If you go in expecting instant results, prepare to be disappointed.’
    • ‘Not so with e-mail, which combines instant delivery with minimal effort.’
    • ‘But intense pressure for instant e-business success has led many companies to open their doors before the paint's dry.’
    • ‘Erice gained instant popularity as a director of children; sweet and tender stories were expected of him.’
    • ‘Shifting rubble too quickly can mean instant death for both Prakash Gore and the rescue team.’
    • ‘But can these long-term goals overcome consumers' short attention spans and need for instant gratification?’
    • ‘Patients expect hospitals, like other businesses, to have instant access to data.’
    • ‘He demanded that million dollar severance payments be banned and that directors of large companies be made liable to instant dismissal.’
    • ‘Even brands that have enjoyed decades of success and have instant recognition with consumers can lose some sparkle.’
    • ‘Terry was so surprised at her instant reply, she quickly gave her a hug.’
    • ‘A single telephone call there results in instant response.’
    immediate, instantaneous, on-the-spot, prompt, direct, swift, speedy, rapid, quick, expeditious, express, lightning, sudden, precipitate, abrupt
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Prepared quickly and with little effort.
      ‘we can't promise instant solutions’
      • ‘The Minister warns the drought meeting will not provide instant solutions.’
      • ‘If his wife is pregnant, it's an instant solution to the problem; and the topic of constitutional reform can be put off for another few generations.’
      • ‘There are no instant solutions to this and things can get out of hand.’
      • ‘Barrichello explained there is no instant solution to the problem.’
      • ‘If criminals were encouraged to conduct their own prosecutions, this would provide an instant solution to the problem of prison overcrowding.’
      • ‘Since it's so fun - and inexpensive too - why not surprise a friend or parent with an instant spring garden?’
      • ‘Though the Internet and email may seem like an instant solution to many problems, people still run the technology.’
      • ‘Like many from their ‘me’ generation, they want instant solutions to their problems.’
      • ‘They are mass-market plants for instant gardens, quickly transforming a space.’
      • ‘IN A world where practically everyone is in a hurry, there's a growing demand for instant solutions.’
      • ‘Importing more rice may be the instant solution, but increasing dependency on imported rice is not good.’
      • ‘Such instant solutions are neither necessary or desirable, said some traditional girlie publishers and printers.’
      • ‘No one is expecting instant solutions to problems that seem to be so deep-rooted as to be terminal.’
      • ‘It is clear there is no instant solution.’
      • ‘Of course, like other instant solutions to complex problems, it's not quite as simple as that, because the root is still there.’
      • ‘There is no reason to rush into anything just because it appears to provide humanity with instant solutions.’
      • ‘So the Army is very seductive to them because it gives an instant solution to everything: Who am I?’
      • ‘You get 12 recipes for the price of four plus an instant solution to what to do with leftovers.’
      • ‘A beech hedge that keeps its russet-brown leaves right through winter is the perfect instant garden solution for a bare, brand new plot.’
      • ‘It's all about hard, elusive answers rather than easy, instant solutions.’
    2. 1.2 (of food) processed to allow quick preparation.
      ‘instant coffee’
      • ‘No instant foods, no TV dinners, no cake mixes ever trespassed into my mother's kitchen.’
      • ‘Called Lumberjack Pie, it consists of instant potato, Spam, baked beans and Cheddar cheese.’
      • ‘Health Valley has a line of four fabulous instant hot cereal cups that have roughly half as much sugar as Quaker instant cereals.’
      • ‘Pour 1 large box of instant chocolate pudding into a bowl along with 3 ½ cups milk.’
      • ‘Just stir them in with a little of their oil, and you have instant pasta with wild mushrooms.’
      • ‘The team is urgently seeking storage space in the Tokyo Tower vicinity to keep bottled water, blankets, tents, canned and instant food and other supplies.’
      • ‘Now to move all the supplies - including blankets, instant food, water, canned food, milk, rice - to another train.’
      • ‘Still, it focuses on cosmetics partially made by green tea, and instant foods made from green tea.’
      • ‘These markers indicate rices that are ideal for products such as canned soups or instant rice mixes.’
      • ‘The inflation rate edged up in December as a result of higher prices of key consumer products such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, and instant food.’
      • ‘Look at the stuff we ate then: Smash instant potato, Vesta curry and, an experimental addition to our school dinner menu, cheese meringue.’
      • ‘Common high-glycemic foods include baked potatoes, boiled new potatoes, corn flakes, dates, and instant rice.’
      • ‘With their increasingly high consumption of snacks and instant foods, is there any hope?’
      • ‘A heap of Scottish mince with instant pasta and cartoned passata can pass for lasagne.’
      • ‘Japanese instant snack noodles hope to dump their junk food status and soar to the higher gastronomical rank of space cuisine.’
      • ‘Ruchi also has instant food mixes, spice powders and asafoetida under its belt, apart from a small presence in dates.’
      • ‘Mark my wise words - start stocking up on yer instant food and tins!’
      • ‘Unless it's a new type of instant food product on an advert, obviously - that is a revolution too.’
      • ‘While instant food can never be as fresh or wholesome as how grandmother made it, it is a better option for hotel food, which is yet another reason for its growing popularity.’
      • ‘Foods with high GI include white bread, potatoes, instant rice, and cornflakes.’
      pre-prepared, ready prepared, ready mixed, pre-cooked, fast, easy to prepare, quick to prepare, easy to make, quick to make, microwaveable, convenience, tv
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 (of a person) becoming a specified thing immediately or very suddenly.
      ‘become an instant millionaire’
      • ‘We changed our money to Kip (we were instant millionaires), and the first thing I did with the money was pay for entering a washroom.’
      • ‘If someone could figure out a way to do this in the case of motor vehicles, he would be an instant millionaire.’
      • ‘Palmer was in his prime in the days before golfers become instant millionaires the day they turned pro.’
      • ‘Named the winner and an instant millionaire he wasted no time going down on bended knee to propose to his lady-love who accepted through tears of joy!’
      • ‘He gets a wealthy financier to start a new company Digital Dreams and becomes an instant celebrity and millionaire.’
      • ‘I get annoyed by the people who become instant experts for a fortnight but couldn't tell you who won the French Open, played just the other week at Flushing Meadow.’
      • ‘There will be two free entry public competitions, one of which will turn one lucky patron into an instant millionaire.’
      • ‘Upon leaving public service, Holbrooke became an instant millionaire executive with Credit Suisse First Boston.’
      • ‘How everyday people became instant reporters with the help of cell phones and the Internet.’
      • ‘They went away for a quiet weekend and came home to find they were instant millionaires.’
      • ‘Is there a downside to becoming an instant millionaire?’
      • ‘There are still some countries in the world where you can become an instant millionaire.’
      • ‘That kind of effort made him an instant favorite among some of the team's veterans.’
      • ‘You will not become an overnight success, an instant millionaire or an Oscar winning actor.’
      • ‘Some Zambians and foreigners became instant millionaires driving posh cars like BMWs as a way to disguise proceeds of drug trafficking.’
      • ‘Called Winning Streak millionaire, it offers contestants a chance to become instant millionaires on television.’
      • ‘That person will be afforded instant genius status.’
      • ‘Not quite instant millionaire status, but what a return.’
      • ‘A beachfront flea-market vendor here became an instant millionaire when he correctly matched six lotto numbers on Saturday.’
      • ‘Sure, the lottery has produced winners, including a number of instant millionaires.’
  • 2dated Urgent; pressing.

    ‘an instant desire to blame others when things go wrong’
    • ‘To most petrolheads the combined letters ‘XKR’ demands instant desire and respect, even if the person has never driven one.’
    • ‘Here's what has changed: the presentation and the instant need to know.’
    current, present, existing, existent, actual, extant
    View synonyms
  • 3dated postpositive (in business letters) of the current month.

    ‘your letter of the 6th instant’
    Compare with proximo, ultimo
    • ‘I have duly received your letter of the 8th instant, on the subject of the stone in your possession, supposed meteoric.’
  • 4archaic Of the present moment.

    • ‘In the instant case, the direction given by the judge has not been shown to be inappropriate in the circumstances.’
    • ‘In the instant case, the direct given by the judge has not been shown to be inappropriate in the circumstances.’


  • 1A precise moment of time.

    ‘come here this instant!’
    ‘at that instant the sun came out’
    • ‘Twice she saw the ‘green flash’, a brilliant flash of emerald green light on the horizon at the instant of the sun's setting.’
    • ‘Only rarely can poetry aid us in communing with others; that is a beautiful idealism, except at certain strange moments, like the instant of falling in love.’
    • ‘Both had answered at the same instant - doubtless a moment of revelation for Sara McArdle.’
    • ‘Love, pain, longing and devotion are written across her face in a flash, sometimes in the same instant.’
    • ‘A vernal equinox represents the instant at which the sun lies exactly between the north and south celestial poles.’
    • ‘In the same instant of realization, the water disappeared, replaced by a carpet of soft green moss.’
    • ‘The paralysis that had gripped him from the first instant of the flash slowly ebbed, and he crawled out from under the truck.’
    • ‘Muses of the moment, they have always known that the instant of illumination is that point of equilibrium between being and becoming.’
    • ‘Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.’
    • ‘Jessica thought she heard him cry out in agony and she reached out to try to pull him free, but in the next instant, Matthew Jones disappeared from sight.’
    • ‘I'm not sure which memory is scariest, the first flash of realisation, or the instant of thrill.’
    • ‘However, the fact remains your two groups activated the claw sensors at precisely the same instant.’
    • ‘There is usually only a very light pressure to overcome, and the precise target shooter wants the exact instant of the shot to come by surprise.’
    • ‘Our eyes met and there was a moment of perfect understanding, an instant of flawless empathy between two Beatle fans.’
    • ‘It was as though a dam had been filled to the point of breaking, and this moment was the instant of peace before the dam burst and sent forth the great flood.’
    • ‘At the precise instant that both boys entered the astounding world of 3 - D, they emitted low moans of amazement.’
    • ‘The equinoxes are the instants at which the Sun appears to cross the equator, on about March 20 and September 22 (the dates vary slightly with the leap-year cycle).’
    • ‘There is not enough bran in this book, not enough of the tangible grit of reality, happening at a specific instant in a precise place.’
    • ‘It is a sign that uses an abbreviated code for a specific instant of duration or registration of a sociological temporal moment.’
    • ‘The day has to be right for this, and the evening perfectly balanced, but it's worth waiting for the precise instant of stillness before the stars come out and the pond is just a pond once more.’
    moment, time, point in time, moment in time, minute, second, hour
    View synonyms
  • 2A very short space of time; a moment.

    ‘for an instant the moon disappeared’
    • ‘Would she fade away slowly, or just disappear in an instant?’
    • ‘The day flashed by in an instant for him; time seemed to only slow when he was occupied with something.’
    • ‘But when the children began to read the names, two years disappeared in an instant.’
    • ‘Then all of sudden, Mitch's face burst like a fire into her mind, and she felt all her stupid feelings disappear in an instant.’
    • ‘It proposes that you can make up your mind about something, and be invariably correct, in an instant; that snap judgment is often a more effective tool than detailed analysis.’
    • ‘He waved his hand, turned on his heel, and disappeared in an instant among the crowd.’
    • ‘It seemed to go faster suddenly and when the moon was completely covered a large, mansion like figure flashed in the sky but it was gone in an instant.’
    • ‘She had been so close to Toni - but their friendship had disappeared in an instant.’
    • ‘‘I would like to think they would not make that mistake,’ he warned, the friendly smile disappearing for an instant.’
    • ‘His life is like a cloud, it could disappear in an instant.’
    • ‘Ninety years ago, there were no television pictures, radio broadcasts or Internet bulletins to flash the news around the globe in an instant.’
    • ‘But take to the practice field of the Calgary Rockies women's contact football team and thoughts of genteel femininity disappear in an instant.’
    • ‘Would you snap it up and upload to your site in an instant?’
    • ‘The cheerful ring in his voice disappeared in an instant.’
    • ‘The scene flashes through his memory in an instant.’
    • ‘Something was happening tonight… the wind told her so, even if the moon did stunt her spirit for an instant.’
    • ‘Several bright comets streaked across the sky and then disappeared in an instant.’
    • ‘All of this, ever just below the surface of my thought, flashed across my mind in the instant between my question and his answer.’
    • ‘But suddenly, the light flickered and flashed out in an instant.’
    • ‘The grey cat is startled as Firemane flashes by, but only for an instant.’
    short time, little while, bit, moment, minute, second, split second, trice, twinkling, twinkling of an eye, flash, no time, less than no time, no time at all
    View synonyms
  • 3informal Instant coffee.

    • ‘Many sins are forgivable, but charging handsomely for coffee that comes directly from an outsized tin of own-label instant is not one of them.’
    • ‘Do you prefer fresh coffee to instant and do you purchase mineral water?’
    • ‘But anyone who has drunk freshly ground coffee and then reverted to instant will know what I'm talking about.’


Late Middle English (in instant (sense 2 of the adjective, instant sense 3 of the adjective, instant sense 4 of the adjective)): via Old French from Latin instant- ‘being at hand’, from the verb instare, from in- ‘in, at’ + stare ‘to stand’.