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 barometer (audio) , ˌba-​rə-​ \ adjective
barometrically \ ˌber-​ə-​ˈme-​tri-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce barometer (audio) \ adverb
barometry \ bə-​ˈrä-​mə-​trē How to pronounce barometer (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 But one sector is an almost perfect barometer: Democratic presidents, who are more in favor of gun control, are wonderful for gun and ammo sales. Spencer Jakab, WSJ, "Is Your Portfolio Locked & Loaded for the Election?," 9 Oct. 2020 Friday's jobs report for September was the final look at the economy's most important barometer before the Nov. 3 presidential election. Paul Wiseman, Star Tribune, "AP Explains: 5 key takeaways from the September jobs report," 2 Oct. 2020 This season, Valentine’s Day has replaced US Thanksgiving as the barometer to gauge who’ll be in and who’ll be out come playoff time. Kevin Paul Dupont,, "Approaching quarter mark of season, Bruins need to improve 5-on-5 scoring," 7 Feb. 2021 Continuing claims – which are viewed as a barometer of the unemployment situation – dropped slightly to about 5 million nationally, the labor department said. Christian Wade, Washington Examiner, "Maine jobless claims decline slightly," 22 Jan. 2021 The barometer at Collegeville hits 31.11 inches, a record high pressure reading for the state. Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, "Weekend Snowfall Potential Increases with 3-5" and Icy Roads," 20 Jan. 2021 And even in nonpandemic years, serving as a barometer of what the motion picture academy will do come Oscar time has never been LAFCA’s job or interest. Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, "Film or television? Who cares? Why the L.A. Film Critics voted ‘Small Axe’ 2020’s best," 21 Dec. 2020 If previous seasons are your barometer for future NFL success, then the Browns won’t ever beat Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Predicting Browns-Ravens: What key matchups and factors will decide the game?," 12 Dec. 2020 Testing increases may drive cases up, but the positivity rate can serve as a more true barometer of viral spread if the state is testing enough. Ethan May, The Indianapolis Star, "How to read Indiana's daily coronavirus dashboard," 19 Nov. 2020

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

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Barometer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for barometer



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

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