mid-15c., "now, present, of the moment, current," from Old French instant "near, imminent, immediate, at hand; urgent, assiduous" (14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin instantem (nominative instans), in classical Latin "present, pressing, urgent," literally "standing near," present participle of instare "to urge, to stand near, be present (to urge one's case)," from in- "in" (from PIE root *en "in") + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
Sense of "immediate, done or occurring at once" is from 1590s. Of processed foods, by 1912; instant coffee is from 1915. Televised sports instant replay attested by 1965. Instant messaging attested by 1994.
In logic, "a fact, a case, an example" (a sense in English from early 15c.), from Medieval Latin instantia, which translated Greek enstasis. This led to for instance "as an example" (1650s), and the noun phrase give (someone) a for instance (1953, American English). The general sense "anything that illustrates a general type" was in use by 19c.
It forms all or part of: and; atoll; dysentery; embargo; embarrass; embryo; empire; employ; en- (1) "in; into;" en- (2) "near, at, in, on, within;" enclave; endo-; enema; engine; enoptomancy; enter; enteric; enteritis; entero-; entice; ento-; entrails; envoy; envy; episode; esoteric; imbroglio; immolate; immure; impede; impend; impetus; important; impostor; impresario; impromptu; in; in- (2) "into, in, on, upon;" inchoate; incite; increase; inculcate; incumbent; industry; indigence; inflict; ingenuous; ingest; inly; inmost; inn; innate; inner; innuendo; inoculate; insignia; instant; intaglio; inter-; interim; interior; intern; internal; intestine; intimate (adj.) "closely acquainted, very familiar;" intra-; intricate; intrinsic; intro-; introduce; introduction; introit; introspect; invert; mesentery.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit antara- "interior;" Greek en "in," eis "into," endon "within;" Latin in "in, into," intro "inward," intra "inside, within;" Old Irish in, Welsh yn, Old Church Slavonic on-, Old English in "in, into," inne "within, inside."
*stā-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to stand, set down, make or be firm," with derivatives meaning "place or thing that is standing."
It forms all or part of: Afghanistan; Anastasia; apostasy; apostate; armistice; arrest; assist; astatic; astatine; Baluchistan; bedstead; circumstance; consist; constable; constant; constitute; contrast; cost; desist; destination; destine; destitute; diastase; distance; distant; ecstasy; epistasis; epistemology; establish; estaminet; estate; etagere; existence; extant; Hindustan; histidine; histo-; histogram; histology; histone; hypostasis; insist; instant; instauration; institute; interstice; isostasy; isostatic; Kazakhstan; metastasis; obstacle; obstetric; obstinate; oust; Pakistan; peristyle; persist; post (n.1) "timber set upright;" press (v.2) "force into service;" presto; prostate; prostitute; resist; rest (v.2) "to be left, remain;" restitution; restive; restore; shtetl; solstice; stable (adj.) "secure against falling;" stable (n.) "building for domestic animals;" stage; stalag; stalwart; stamen; -stan; stance; stanchion; stand; standard; stanza; stapes; starboard; stare decisis; stasis; -stat; stat; state (n.1) "circumstances, conditions;" stater; static; station; statistics; stator; statue; stature; status; statute; staunch; (adj.) "strong, substantial;" stay (v.1) "come to a halt, remain in place;" stay (n.2) "strong rope which supports a ship's mast;" stead; steed; steer (n.) "male beef cattle;" steer (v.) "guide the course of a vehicle;" stem (n.) "trunk of a plant;" stern (n.) "hind part of a ship;" stet; stoa; stoic; stool; store; stound; stow; stud (n.1) "nailhead, knob;" stud (n.2) "horse kept for breeding;" stylite; subsist; substance; substitute; substitution; superstition; system; Taurus; understand.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit tisthati "stands;" Avestan histaiti "to stand;" Persian -stan "country," literally "where one stands;" Greek histēmi "put, place, cause to stand; weigh," stasis "a standing still," statos "placed," stylos "pillar;" Latin sistere "stand still, stop, make stand, place, produce in court," status "manner, position, condition, attitude," stare "to stand," statio "station, post;" Lithuanian stojuos "I place myself," statau "I place;" Old Church Slavonic staja "place myself," stanu "position;" Gothic standan, Old English standan "to stand," stede "place;" Old Norse steði "anvil;" Old Irish sessam "the act of standing."