ba·rom·e·ter | \bə-ˈrä-mə-tər \

Definition of barometer 

1 : an instrument for determining the pressure of the atmosphere and hence for assisting in forecasting weather and for determining altitude (see altitude sense 1a)

2 : something that indicates fluctuations (as in public opinion) housing sales and other economic barometers

3 : standard, test a barometer to measure high school talent— Jeff Fellenzer

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Other Words from barometer

barometric \ˌber-ə-ˈme-trik, ˌba-rə- \ adjective
barometrically \ˌber-ə-ˈme-tri-k(ə-)lē \ adverb
barometry \bə-ˈrä-mə-trē \ noun

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

More Michigan State: Both were hitting occasional shots from deep in the freeform summer league, which typically is not a true barometer of things to come during the season. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Can Michigan State's Xavier Tillman, Nick Ward stay on floor together?," 12 July 2018 In a barometer of support for the fledgling new government, tax collections rose year after year, eventually surpassing some benchmarks in much richer, more established democracies, including the United States. New York Times, "Corruption Gutted South Africa’s Tax Agency. Now the Nation Is Paying the Price.," 10 June 2018 It's used as a sort of barometer test of the sound in a motion picture. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "Listen to THX's Upgraded Iconic 'Deep Note' Sound," 6 Apr. 2015 My mother was my barometer as to an athlete’s popularity. Ann Killion,, "Mom was charmed by Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr," 16 June 2018 There’s no way to write in mathematics a simple fact—for example, that the upcoming storm causes the barometer to go down, and not the other way around. Kevin Hartnett, The Atlantic, "How a Pioneer of Machine Learning Became One of Its Sharpest Critics," 19 May 2018 With the barometer set at 2 minutes, the 'under' wins. Marc Bona,, "Super Bowl 52: Subpar production for NBC in Eagles-Patriots broadcast," 5 Feb. 2018 This suggests that a good kiss is a terrible barometer for good romance. Sophia Benoit, GQ, "Kissing! Is! Overrated!," 25 May 2018 Investors often study the two yields as barometers that influence borrowing costs for consumers and corporations in the U.S. and Europe. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Bond Market Bets on U.S. Growth Over Europe," 14 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'barometer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of barometer

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for barometer

The first known use of barometer was in 1632

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English Language Learners Definition of barometer

: an instrument that is used to measure air pressure and predict changes in the weather

: something that is used to indicate or predict something


ba·rom·e·ter | \bə-ˈrä-mə-tər \

Kids Definition of barometer

: an instrument that measures air pressure and is used to forecast changes in the weather

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More from Merriam-Webster on barometer

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for barometer

Spanish Central: Translation of barometer

Nglish: Translation of barometer for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about barometer

Comments on barometer

What made you want to look up barometer? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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