Let's say you have a title to write, I wrote something like "the [adjective] pulse". Here what I mean by "pulse" is the noun to describe a "will" that "comes suddently in you" and makes you feel like you have to do something, often creative or reactive.

Now, in english, it seems that "impulse" would be more accurate, but it seems too that "pulse" can be used to mean exactly what I want.

So I'd like to have an explanation about if there is a real difference between both "a pulse" and "an impulse", and if there are cases, like my example, where it does mean "a sudden will to do something".

(I'm french, if that can help)

  • 2
    How did you reach the conclusion that "it seems too that pulse can be used to mean exactly what I want"? I don't agree that it can, so I'd be interested to see what led you to that statement.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 6, 2012 at 8:21
  • One of the reason I think you can is experience reading/listening english, but I might be totally wrong. The other is Google Translate giving the same output for "The [..] pulse" than "the [...] impulse" when translating from english to french. As Google Translate is not fully reliable but still gives clues, I'm a bit lost with the meaning... Also, my french might impact my understanding as in french "an impulse" would be "une pulsion", so it's close to "pulse".
    – Klaim
    Jul 6, 2012 at 8:26
  • It would be easier to see what dictionaries say as to pulse and impulse.
    – rogermue
    May 26, 2015 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


I have never heard the word "pulse" used in this way.

Here is the dictionary definition. It seems the word has many different meanings, but none of them seem to fit. It is usually used to mean a regular or rhythmical beating.

"The will that comes suddenly in you, often creative or reactive" would normally just be an impulse.

  • Ok so I was totally wrong... I should have checked several times. I guess my French mislead me.
    – Klaim
    Jul 6, 2012 at 8:29
  • Pulse refers to the general emotions of a group of people (among other meanings).

The article captures the pulse of the nation.

  • Impulse is a sudden wish or motivation.

I overcame all impulses to quit my degree.

There is no suddenness in this meaning of pulse. What might have caused your confusion is the use of pulse in physics, where it refers to a "sudden" surge of current. However that is a different meaning/usage.

  • Why did you choose this definition of "pulse"? It's surely quite a rare usage of the word, and it doesn't really match the definition of impulse.
    – Urbycoz
    Jul 6, 2012 at 8:51
  • @Urbycoz Obviously no definition of pulse matches with that of impulse. I chose this because of the similarity in talking about wish/mood. In non-tech places, this def. of pulse is quite common.
    – Bravo
    Jul 6, 2012 at 8:55

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