The Meaning of Intrinsic: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of intrinsic? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word intrinsic, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word intrinsic mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Dictionary, the word intrinsic means belonging to a thing by nature (pronunciation: ​​​ɪnˈtrɪnsɪk). This adjective describes qualities that are inherent to a person, place, or thing. This term can also describe something that originates due to causes within a body part or organ. This is seen in the terms intrinsic muscles of the limbs or intrinsic anatomy. If something has intrinsic value, this means that it has value in and of itself. For example, the intrinsic value of a gold ring comes from the fact that it is made of gold. It does not matter how old it was or who owned it, but it is the very essence of the thing that creates its value – the intrinsic value of gold, which investors might see worth in. Many different things can be intrinsic, from the intrinsic merit of an action to intrinsic signals, to the intrinsic property of any physical object. This word is of Indo-European roots, and refers to the real nature of a thing outside of external circumstances. If one was referring to the opposite of something intrinsic, this would be considered an extrinsic property. This does not refer to the inherent part of something. 

There are many different languages that contain words meaning intrinsic. You may notice that a lot of these words look and sound similar to the word intrinsic. These are called cognates. Cognates are words and phrases that have the same meaning across languages, and also look and sound similar. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of intrinsic translations is provided by Word Sense

  •  Swedish: inneboende‎
  •  Cyrillic: интринзичан‎, сво̀јствен‎, , прирођен‎, у̀рођен‎
  •  Portuguese: intrínseco‎
  •  Polish: wewnętrzny‎, rzeczywisty‎
  •  Finnish: olennainen‎, luontainen‎, erottamaton‎
  •  Greek: εγγενής‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Italian: intrinseco‎ (masc.)
  •  Roman: intrìnzičan‎, svòjstven‎, prìrođen‎, ùrođen‎
  •  Estonian: sisemine‎
  •  Catalan: intrínsec‎
  •  Mandarin: 本质的‎ (běnzhì de)
  •  Dutch: intrinsiek‎
  •  German: intrinsisch‎
  •  Spanish: intrínseco‎
  •  Occitan: intrinsec‎
  •  Danish: indre‎, egentlig‎
  •  French: intrinsèque‎
  •  Russian: прису́щий‎, свойственный‎, имманентный‎

How can the word intrinsic be used in a sentence?

The word intrinsic can be used in many different ways in many different contexts to refer to things that are a part of something’s nature. In this first example, Malia has been caught cheating on a test. Her teacher talks to her.

Teacher: Why did you do it, Malia?

Malia: I don’t know. I’m a bad person.

Teacher: No you’re not, Malia. There is an intrinsic good to you. I think you’re afraid of failure is all. There is also an intrinsic part to you that needs to succeed no matter the cost, and that probably comes from a lot of pressure you put on yourself. I am going to let you retake the text because I believe this was a lapse in judgment, but don’t let it happen again. 

Next, the word intrinsic will be used by Malia at volleyball practice. 

Malia: Wow, how do you spike the ball that hard? 

Teammate: I don’t know. It just comes naturally.

Malia: I wish I had that kind of intrinsic strength. 

What is the origin of the word intrinsic?

According to Etymonline, the word intrinsic has been used since the late 15th century. This word comes from the Middle French intrinsèque meaning inner, which was used in the 14th century. This is related to the Middle English intrinsique.This is from the Old French intrinseque. This word comes from the Medieval Latin intrinsecus, meaning internal, from the Late Latin intrinsecus, an adverb meaning inwardly. This comes from the prefix intra meaning within and the root secus meaning along. This is from the Proro-Indo-European root sekw-os meaning following, from sekw, meaning to follow. Related words include intrinsically and intrinsical.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word intrinsic?

There are many different words that can be used in place of the word intrinsic. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you simply want to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word intrinsic is provided by Thesaurus

  •  distinctive
  •  implicit
  •  unalienable
  •  real
  •  indwelling
  •  genuine
  •  original
  •  basic
  •  material
  •  fixed
  •  subjective
  •  central
  •  connate
  •  essential
  •  genetic
  •  inbuilt
  •  immanent
  •  inmost
  •  fundamental
  •  intimate
  •  inbred
  •  underlying
  •  inward
  •  latent
  •  innate
  •  running in the family
  •  congenital
  •  built-in
  •  indigenous
  •  peculiar
  •  natural
  •  part and parcel
  •  deep-rooted
  •  in the grain
  •  inner
  •  resident
  •  inherited
  •  hereditary
  •  native
  •  inherent
  •  inborn
  •  instinctive
  •  indispensable
  •  deep-seated
  •  particular
  •  ingrained
  •  intrinsic
  •  integrated
  •  characteristic
  •  constitutive
  •  individual
  •  elemental
  •  constitutional
  •  elementary
  •  integral
  •  true
  •  internal

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word intrinsic. These are called antonyms. Antonyms, or “opposite words,” are another great way to easily and quickly expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word intrinsic is also provided by Thesaurus. Try adding these to your vocabulary lists!

  •  captured
  •  won
  •  external
  •  acquired
  •  outward
  •  earned
  •  collected
  •  learned
  •  outer
  •  extrinsic
  •  exotic
  •  superficial
  •  reached
  •  imported
  •  attained
  •  exterior
  •  accomplished
  •  outside
  •  secured
  •  obtained
  •  alien
  •  realized
  •  gained
  •  gathered
  •  extraneous
  •  seized

Overall, the word intrinsic is a word that means by the essential nature of a thing. This is not an earned or a gained quality, but is something that one preposesses. The property of this specified subject is not something that was learned, but something it has always had in its very nature. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/intrinsic/
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/intrinsic
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/extrinsic
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intrinsic
  5. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/intrinsic
  6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/intrinsic#etymonline_v_12168