mid-14c., "urgency," from Old French instance "eagerness, anxiety, solicitation" (13c.), from Latin instantia "presence, effort intention; earnestness, urgency," literally "a standing near," from instans (see instant). In Scholastic logic, "a fact or example" (early 15c.), from Medieval Latin instantia, used to translate Greek enstasis. This led to use in phrase for instance "as an example" (1650s), and the noun phrase To give (someone) a for instance (1953, American English).