stimulus

stimulus, stimulant, excitant, incitement, impetus can all mean an agent that arouses a person or a lower organism or a particualr organ or tissue to activity. Only the first three words have definite and common technical use.
Stimulus, in this use chiefly a physiological or psychological term, applies basically to something (as a change in temperature, light, sound, or pressure) that occurs in the internal or external environment of an organism, is perceived by sense organs, and if sufficiently intense induces a neural or equivalent (as tropistic) response
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any physical energy that acts upon a receptor of a living organism. A stimulus causes a reaction in an organism, but not necessarily a response (a reaction of a muscle or gland)— Charles Morris

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so long as a system recognizes stimuli, and reacts to them with fitting responses, it exercises control. And it may then remain intact and functioning, despite stresses which would otherwise upset its internal coordination— Weisz

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Stimulant, typically a medical term, applies chiefly to a chemical substance and especially to a medicament that does or is intended to vitalize bodily activity, either generally or in respect to a particular system or organ or function
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tea, coffee, and cocoa are true stimulants to the heart, nervous system, and kidneys; coffee is more stimulating to the brain, cocoa to the kidneys, while tea occupies a happy position between the two, being mildly stimulating to most of our bodily functions— Ukers

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drugs which speed up cell activity are called stimulantsClemensen et ai

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alcohol produces a false sense of well-being and efficiency, but actually it is a depressant rather than a stimulant—T. L. Engle

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Excitant can come very close to stimulant in some of its uses; thus, one may speak of a substance as a stimulant or an excitant of intestinal motility. But distinctively excitant can apply to either a sought or an unwanted reaction and it can imply, as stimulus often but stimulant rarely does, either the initiating or the vitalizing of a process or activity
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these amines, being excitants of the central nervous system, increase intellectual and motor activity, produce insomnia, nervousness, and tremors and have the property of antagonizing mild drug depression— Thienes

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a great many allergists believed that pine pollen contained little or no excitant of allergy. That is to say, the element within the pollen which stimulates antibody production was absent in pine pollen— Swartz

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In their more general use these three terms are seldom as clearly differentiate as in their basic use. Stimulus and stimulant are usually interchangeably applicable to whatever exerts an impelling or invigorating effect (as on a process, an activity, or a mind)
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whenever an idea loses its immediate felt quality, it ceases to be an idea and becomes, like an algebraic symbol, a mere stimulus to execute an operation without the need of thinking— Dewey

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to borrow from commercial banks increases the money supply and is a business stimulant—F. M. Knight

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the colonial-development money is the extra stimulus to generate development faster than would otherwise be possible— Lewis

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but excitant, here too, is more likely to suggest an initiating
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we hold that ethical statements are expressions and excitants of feeling which do not necessarily involve any assertions— Ayer

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and it is applicable when unwanted or undesirable ends result
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the desire to gain vast and lucrative readership and audiences is the major excitant to the excesses of which so many are SLwareNewsweek

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Incitement applies to something that moves or impels usually a course of action ; the term tends to emphasize an urging or pressing intended to drive one into moving or acting quickly rather than the result attained
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to issue a solemn public condemnation and warning that this attack against the Jewish people is an incitement to massacre— The Nation

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energies slumbering in him which the incitements of the day do not call forth— James

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nor could all the incitements of its master induce the beast again to move forward— Galsworthy

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Impetus (see also SPEED 2) usually stresses the stimulation of an increase in the momentum of activity already initiated
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what also gave an unusual impetus to the mind of men at this period was the discovery of the New World— Hazlitt

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in estimating the social importance of this movement, we must be careful to discount the temporary . . . impetus it received from the economic slump of this period— Day Lewis

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But the term sometimes applies also to a stimulus that initiates action
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it is the impetus that I ask of you: the will to try— Quiller-Couch

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Analogous words: spur, goad, incentive, *motive, inducement: excitement, piquing, provocation (see corresponding verbs at PROVOKE): irritation, nettling (see corresponding verbs at IRRITATE)

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

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  • stimulus — [ stimylys ] n. m. • 1795; mot lat. sc.; cf. a. fr. stimule « aiguillon » et fig. (XVIe); de stimuler ♦ Physiol. Cause externe ou interne capable de provoquer la réaction d un système excitable. ⇒ excitant. « lorsque tel organe [...] se contracte …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • stimulus — stim‧u‧lus [ˈstɪmjləs] noun [singular, uncountable] something that helps a process to develop more quickly or strongly: stimulus to • The discovery of oil acted as a stimulus to the local economy. ˌfiscal ˈstimulus ECONOMICS an attempt to make… …   Financial and business terms

  • Stimulus — may refer to:*Sha Stimuli, a brooklyn based rapper. *Stimulus (band), an experimental band *Stimulus (physiology), something external that influences an activity *Stimulus (psychology), a concept in behaviorism *Input to a system in other fields… …   Wikipedia

  • Stimulus — Stim u*lus, n.; pl. {Stimuli}. [L., for stigmulus, akin to L. instigare to stimulate. See {Instigare}, {Stick}, v. t.] 1. A goad; hence, something that rouses the mind or spirits; an incentive; as, the hope of gain is a powerful stimulus to labor …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • STIMULUS — apud Terentium Phormione, Act. 1. sc. 2. v. 28. Nam quae inscitia est Adversum stimulos calces, supple iactare? κέντρον est Aeschylo, Agamemn. v. 1620. Πρὸς κέντρα μὴ λάκτιζε et Scriptori sacro Actorum c. 9. versu 5. et c. 26. v. 14. ubi eadem… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • stimulus — plural stimuli, 1680s, originally as a medical term, something that goads a lazy organ (often the male member), from Mod.L. stimulus goad (see STIMULATION (Cf. stimulation)). General sense is from 1791. Psychological sense is first recorded 1894 …   Etymology dictionary

  • stimulus — stȉmulus m DEFINICIJA term. djelovanje neke vrste energije na osjetne receptore; podražaj ETIMOLOGIJA lat. stimulus ≃ stimulans: poticajan ← lat. stimulare …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Stimŭlus — (lat.), 1) spitziges Ding, Stachel; bes. 2) eiserne Spitze an einem Stab, womit Fuhrleute u. Landbauer die Zugthiere antrieben; 3) eiserne Spitzen, welche da ausgestreut wurden, wo man sich eines Angriffs der Reiterei versah, vgl. Fußangeln; 4)… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • stimulus — I noun activator, animator, arouser, calcar, catalyst, catalytic agent, cause, drive, encouragement, excitant, fillip, goad, impetus, impulse, incentive, incitamentum, incitement, inducement, influence, inritamentum, motivating force, motive,… …   Law dictionary

  • Stimulus — Stimulus,der:1.⇨Antrieb(1)–2.⇨Reiz(1) …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

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