ba·​rom·​e·​ter bə-ˈrä-mə-tər How to pronounce barometer (audio)
: an instrument for determining the pressure of the atmosphere and hence for assisting in forecasting weather and for determining altitude (see altitude sense 1a)
: something that indicates fluctuations (as in public opinion)
housing sales and other economic barometers
: standard, test
a barometer to measure high school talentJeff Fellenzer
barometric adjective
barometrically adverb
barometry noun

Did you know?

When did barometer become figurative?

Originally, barometer referred to an instrument that measures atmospheric pressure. Although this meaning is still very much in use, the word has taken on a strongly figurative sense denoting something that signals changes in conditions not necessarily related to the weather. This extended use of barometer has existed since at least the early 18th century, when Isaac Bickerstaff used it in an article in The Tatler: “I have an Engine in my Study, which is a Sort of a Political Barometer, or, to speak more intelligibly, a State Weather-Glass.”

Examples of barometer in a Sentence

a legendary Broadway flop that has subsequently become the barometer by which failure in the theater is judged
Recent Examples on the Web Known for its historical influence on the trajectory of the entire presidential race, the New Hampshire primary has consistently served as a barometer for gauging the early success of candidates. TIME, 18 Jan. 2024 Tari and Bill Nicholson Martinez November vote will be barometer of economy Numbers can always be used in a manner to justify one’s position. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 22 Jan. 2024 Maternal mortality is a barometer of weathering’s contribution to excess deaths, as the physical stress of pregnancy is harder to withstand for a weathered body, while other manifestations of weathering often become life-threatening only after the reproductive ages. Arline Geronimus, WIRED, 19 Jan. 2024 The two made for an unofficial barometer of sentiment in the country. Catherine Porter, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 The volume and quality can vary but is a good barometer of appetite for natural diamonds, as well as prices. Yusuf Khan, WSJ, 10 Jan. 2024 Though its data does not include production on studio lots, it is nevertheless seen as a reliable barometer for overall production activity. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 16 Jan. 2024 That wasn’t so bad If the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is a barometer for the 12 months to come, 2024 is going to be considerably rosier than the recent years of biotech history. Damian Garde, STAT, 11 Jan. 2024 Some see the prospects of the kibbutz’s rehabilitation as a barometer for Israel’s future. Muktita Suhartono Lauren Decicca, New York Times, 13 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'barometer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of barometer was in 1632

Dictionary Entries Near barometer

Cite this Entry

“Barometer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ba·​rom·​e·​ter bə-ˈräm-ət-ər How to pronounce barometer (audio)
: an instrument that measures the pressure of the atmosphere to determine probable weather changes
barometric adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on barometer

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