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

Pending sales are a barometer of home purchases that are completed a month or two later. Josh Boak, The Seattle Times, "US pending home sales nudged upward in September," 25 Oct. 2018 Giveaways are often a good barometer for how much focus Golden State is employing any given night. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Warriors' Defense and Stephen Curry's Hot Shooting Overwhelm Rockets in Game 3 Blowout," 20 May 2018 The British pound, a sort of barometer for how Brexit talks have fared in recent months, fell sharply against the dollar on Thursday. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Companies Start to Sweat Prospect of No-Deal Brexit as Deadline Looms," 16 Nov. 2018 This question is often a quick and reliable barometer of whether to do something or not. Gretchen Rubin, Good Housekeeping, "6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Making a Tough Decision," 22 Oct. 2013 Lots of sensors including a barometer, GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Huawei Watch GT review: When hardware and software don’t mesh," 16 Dec. 2018 What does the Hall of Fame consider barometers of success? Jon Wertheim,, "Mailbag: What Message Is Hall of Fame Sending with Recent Inductees?," 7 Feb. 2018 Mills the barometer: Backup guard Patty Mills shot 4 of 14 against the Raptors, which was a foreboding bellwether for the Spurs. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Spurs notebook: Minutes restrictions off Parker, Green (they think)," 20 Jan. 2018 As for share prices, the equity market has never been an accurate barometer of China’s real economy. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "China Won’t Be a Trade Pushover," 31 July 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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Statistics for barometer

Last Updated

2 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for barometer

The first known use of barometer was in 1632

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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 \

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).


excited commotion or publicity

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