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 Get Creative with Recipe Substitutions Supermarket runs are rare and stressful these days (although these safety and sanity tips can help), so feel free to improvise to make Easter dinner recipes your own. Karla Walsh, Better Homes & Gardens, "BH&G Readers Share 8 Ways They'll Celebrate Easter Dinner at Home This Year," 3 Apr. 2020 Health care providers throughout the U.S., emulating those in other countries, are improvising protective equipment. Pierre E. Rollin, STAT, "A CDC veteran asks: Why is the agency ‘sitting on the sidelines’ in the fight against Covid-19?," 26 Mar. 2020 An attempt to build an artificial Dungeon Master offers hope that machines able to improvise a good storyline might be built. Will Knight, Wired, "Forget Chess—the Real Challenge Is Teaching AI to Play D&D," 28 Feb. 2020 The concert, in February of 1924, with Gershwin at the piano improvising some portions of the piece, was a triumph. Christopher Arnott,, "Guest pianist Kevin Cole channels the jazzy spirit of Gershwin to open Hartford Symphony season," 3 Oct. 2019 Anybody, that is, who is capable of improvising dialogue from audience suggestions, hip-hop style, which means rhyming on the spot. Chris Jones,, "Broadway’s 'Freestyle Love Supreme’ has different stars every night — maybe Miranda — and is a manic mix of improv and hip-hop," 19 Sep. 2019 But Prydz insists on improvising during EPIC shows. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "Eric Prydz is going to DJ inside a giant glowing sphere — here’s how it was made," 9 July 2019 The tarmac decision was a pivotal moment for U.S. officials improvising their response to a crisis with few precedents and extraordinarily high stakes. Anchorage Daily News, "14 coronavirus-infected Americans were flown home from China against the CDC’s advice," 21 Feb. 2020 Climo was arrested in August, after allegedly talking with members of a white supremacist group about setting fire to a synagogue and making Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, "Las Vegas man who allegedly wanted to attack synagogue pleads guilty to having bomb parts," 10 Feb. 2020

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

9 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Improvise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Apr. 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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