im·​pro·​vise | \ ˈim-prə-ˌvīz also ˌim-prə-ˈvīz How to pronounce improvise (audio) \
improvised; improvising

Definition of improvise

transitive verb

1 : to compose, recite, play, or sing extemporaneously
2 : to make, invent, or arrange offhand the quarterback improvised a play
3 : to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand improvise a meal

intransitive verb

: to improvise something

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Other Words from improvise

improviser or improvisor \ ˈim-​prə-​ˌvī-​zər How to pronounce improvisor (audio) , ˌim-​prə-​ˈvī-​ \ noun

Examples of improvise in a Sentence

If you forget any of your lines, try to improvise. Good jazz musicians know how to improvise. He had to improvise his opening speech when he forgot his notes. The trumpet player performed an improvised solo. I wasn't expecting guests, so I had to improvise a meal with what I had in my refrigerator.
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Recent Examples on the Web There is always a temptation to ascribe a deep, unspoken strategy to Trump’s improvised approach to politics—to find order in the chaos, a signal in the noise. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "What the Media Is Getting Wrong About Soleimani’s Killing," 7 Jan. 2020 Given that most schools don’t have private bathrooms or running water, washing and disposing of menstrual products, improvised or otherwise, is often an insurmountable challenge, one that has contributed to widespread absenteeism. Chioma Nnadi, Vogue, "Meet the Woman Bringing the Menstrual Cup Movement to Ethiopia," 30 Dec. 2019 Fields looked like the second coming of Michael Vick, an amazing athlete who hurdled defenders and improvised busted plays into a legendary highlight reel. Josh Bean |, al, "College Football Playoff QB showdown has been years in the making," 28 Dec. 2019 The archaeology of World War I sites has especially helped scholars understand how soldiers improvised their trench construction to cope with harsh conditions. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 23 Dec. 2019 The Patriots did get a touchdown on the next play, with Brady — who actually had more than a second or two to throw for once — finding an improvising Harry in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard TD catch and a 20-10 lead., "Thirty-four thoughts on the Patriots’ 34-13 win over the Bengals . . .," 16 Dec. 2019 Snowdon shunned bulky, large-format cameras in favor of newer, lighter ones, allowing him to move and improvise. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Lord Snowdon’s Work Was About So Much More Than the Royal Family," 15 Dec. 2019 Authorities have discovered caches of explosives and improvised bombs on multiple occasions since protests began in June over a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China to face trial. Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "Hong Kong police say they found two bombs meant to 'kill and to maim people'," 10 Dec. 2019 Minshew, meanwhile, extends plays with his legs and does some of his best work while improvising. Mark Long,, "Jaguars switch back to rookie QB Gardner Minshew after losing 4th straight," 2 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'improvise.' 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 improvise

1788, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for improvise

French improviser, from Italian improvvisare, from improvviso sudden, from Latin improvisus, literally, unforeseen, from in- + provisus, past participle of providēre to see ahead — more at provide

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Time Traveler for improvise

Time Traveler

The first known use of improvise was in 1788

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Statistics for improvise

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Improvise.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for improvise


How to pronounce improvise (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of improvise

: to speak or perform without preparation
: to make or create (something) by using whatever is available


im·​pro·​vise | \ ˈim-prə-ˌvīz How to pronounce improvise (audio) \
improvised; improvising

Kids Definition of improvise

1 : to speak or perform without preparing ahead of time I improvised a song on the spot.
2 : to make, invent, or arrange by using whatever is available … Cluny sat beneath an awning that had been improvised from the damaged tent.— Brian Jacques, Redwall

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Comments on improvise

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good-natured easy friendliness

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