ba·​rom·​e·​ter | \ bə-ˈrä-mə-tər How to pronounce barometer (audio) \

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 How to pronounce barometric (audio) , ˌba-​rə-​ \ adjective
barometrically \ ˌber-​ə-​ˈme-​tri-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce barometrically (audio) \ adverb
barometry \ bə-​ˈrä-​mə-​trē How to pronounce barometry (audio) \ 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 Pro-democracy parties won a landslide victory in Hong Kong on Sunday, in an election that was widely seen as a barometer of public sentiment for anti-government protests that have gripped the city since June. Amy Gunia / Hong Kong, Time, "Hong Kong's Democracy Parties Scored Big in Local Elections. Here's What That Means for Their Movement," 25 Nov. 2019 The battle between the northwest suburban schools is a good barometer for both teams, especially the Lions after a one-victory season. Bob Narang,, "Pioneer Press 2019 football preview: St. Viator Lions," 23 Aug. 2019 The British pound was down 0.4% against the U.S. dollar at $1.255, while the Australian dollar—a common barometer of risk appetite—dropped 0.3% to $0.696. Mike Bird, WSJ, "Yen Surges After Apple Upsets the Currency Cart," 3 Jan. 2019 Naftogaz was a hub of corruption until 2014 and how Zelenskiy handles the company could provide a barometer on his willingness to confront corruption in the country, experts and transparency activists say. NBC News, "Proposed U.S. sanctions on Russian gas pipeline would help Ukraine in stand-off with Moscow," 13 Dec. 2019 That could’ve been a solid barometer for a Minnesota team that has surprised many out of the gates. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "Towns-less Timberwolves routed by Antetokounmpo-led Bucks," 4 Nov. 2019 The numbers, digital strategists said, reveal contrasting approaches to Facebook, which is a good barometer for how groups are allocating digital resources more broadly to build voter lists and solicit online donations., "WASHINGTON — President Trump and his allies are outspending rivals on impeachment-related advertising on Facebook, demonstrating their dominance on the platform as they wrestle for control of a fast-evolving narrative that could threaten his presidency.," 3 Oct. 2019 The results won’t effect Carroll County Athletic League play, but coaches can likely use the outcome as a good barometer for what’s to come this fall. Pat Stoetzer,, "Fall sports previews: 3 things to watch for golf in 2019," 22 Aug. 2019 And the 49ers bring a unit, coordinated by Robert Saleh, that leads the league in sacks (44), three-and-outs (38), points per game (14.8), yards (248), forced fumbles (16) and a few other barometers. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Just how good is the 49ers' defense? Lamar Jackson is about to let San Francisco know," 30 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for barometer

Time Traveler

The first known use of barometer was in 1632

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Statistics for barometer

Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Barometer.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for barometer


How to pronounce barometer (audio)

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 How to pronounce barometer (audio) \

Kids Definition of barometer

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

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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).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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