in·​stance | \ ˈin(t)-stən(t)s How to pronounce instance (audio) \

Definition of instance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a step, stage, or situation viewed as part of a process or series of events prefers, in this instance, to remain anonymousThe Times Literary Supplement (London)
2 : the institution and prosecution of a lawsuit : suit
3a : an individual illustrative of a category or brought forward in support or disproof of a generalization
b archaic : exception
c obsolete : token, sign
4a : instigation, request am writing to you at the instance of my client
b archaic : urgent or earnest solicitation
c obsolete : an impelling cause or motive
for instance \ fə-​ˈrin(t)-​stən(t)s How to pronounce instance (audio) , ˈfrin(t)-​ \
: as an instance or example older people, like my grandmother, for instance


instanced; instancing

Definition of instance (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to illustrate or demonstrate by an instance
2 : to mention as a case or example : cite

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Choose the Right Synonym for instance


instance, case, illustration, example, sample, specimen mean something that exhibits distinguishing characteristics in its category. instance applies to any individual person, act, or thing that may be offered to illustrate or explain. an instance of history repeating itself case is used to direct attention to a real or assumed occurrence or situation that is to be considered, studied, or dealt with. a case of mistaken identity illustration applies to an instance offered as a means of clarifying or illuminating a general statement. a telling illustration of Murphy's Law example applies to a typical, representative, or illustrative instance or case. a typical example of bureaucratic waste sample implies a part or unit taken at random from a larger whole and so presumed to be typical of its qualities. show us a sample of your work specimen applies to any example or sample whether representative or merely existent and available. one of the finest specimens of the jeweler's art

Examples of instance in a Sentence

Noun an instance of great courage These delays are just another instance of bureaucratic inefficiency. In most instances the disease can be controlled by medication. They have decided not to oppose the decision in this instance. Verb instanced one particular incident as an illustration of their penchant for practical jokes instanced the latest astronomical research in her presentation on measuring star magnitude
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In some instances, patients were not even aware that they had been infected with the coronavirus. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana gets first case of mysterious coronavirus-linked illness that targets children," 18 May 2020 In this instance, prosecutors said, Kelly and Baroni essentially took over two of the three lanes of the bridge. Los Angeles Times, "Unanimous Supreme Court overturns New Jersey ‘Bridgegate’ fraud convictions," 7 May 2020 In this instance, 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen, and No Kid Hungry. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Friends Will Be Available to Stream on HBO Max Next Month," 28 Apr. 2020 The kids don’t care about the tired deployment of trope, like the physically small person—a pixie in this instance—with an outsized tough attitude. Rumaan Alam, The New Yorker, "“Onward,” the Silly, Cynical Pixar Movie That Strikes a Nerve During Quarantine," 23 Apr. 2020 Another 2011 report in the Journal of Wildlife Management and Wildlife Monographs showed that in 173 instances where a person used bear spray in an attack only three humans where injured, resulting in no deaths. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "The Newbie’s Guide to Survival in Bear Country," 17 Apr. 2020 This was one instance where glassware could really make a difference. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sanity, delivered," 11 Apr. 2020 Rimfires dominate this genre of firearms but in some instances, a camp might need a gun with a little more punch. Richard Mann, Field & Stream, "10 Takedown Camp Guns for Hunting and Survival," 25 Mar. 2020 In another instance of the unlikely, the Champagne and caviar were consumed with cheeseburgers and tater tots, a meal curated by Hoover herself. Zachary Schwartz, Vogue, "Chanel Manicures, Bondage Ballet, and Emily Ratajkowski: Inside the Art Production Fund’s 2020 Gala," 10 Mar. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4b


1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for instance

Time Traveler

The first known use of instance was in the 14th century

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Statistics for instance

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Instance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for instance


How to pronounce instance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of instance

: an example of a particular type of action or situation : an occasion of something happening


in·​stance | \ ˈin-stəns How to pronounce instance (audio) \

Kids Definition of instance

1 : a particular occurrence of something : example an instance of true bravery
2 : a certain point or situation in a process or series of events In most instances, the medicine helps.


in·​stance | \ ˈin-stəns How to pronounce instance (audio) \

Legal Definition of instance

: the institution or prosecution of a lawsuit a court of first instance

History and Etymology for instance

French, from Late Latin instantia, from Latin, the fact of being present or impending, vehemence in speech, urgency, from instant-, instans insistent, pressing, from present participle of instare to be pressing, stand upon

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