in·​stance | \ˈin(t)-stən(t)s \

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, 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


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.


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

But these instances are the exception, not the rule. Anna North, Vox, "America’s sexist obsession with what women politicians wear, explained," 3 Dec. 2018 The most recent instance was in 1923, when Republican Frederick H. Gillett of Massachusetts emerged victorious after nine attempts to win a majority. Joshua Jamerson, WSJ, "How Can Nancy Pelosi Become Speaker? Five Questions and Answers," 21 Nov. 2018 The specific instances of devastation and loss highlighted in Dawnland are reflective of the way the U.S. government has historically treated Indigenous families. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Dawnland Documentary Shows How the U.S. Government Took Indigenous Children From Their Homes — and Placed Them With White Families," 5 Nov. 2018 In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. Hope Yen, The Seattle Times, "Fact-checking President Trump on migrants, Saudis, Hispanic vote," 22 Oct. 2018 This is not the first time that an actor's face has been digitally inserted into a Star Wars film, though this instance is a bit more renegade than the appearances of Grand Moff Tarkin or Princess Leia in Rogue One. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Here's Harrison Ford Starring in 'Solo' Thanks to Deepfakes," 17 Oct. 2018 This particular instance, however, was about Meghan and Doria. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "Body Language Experts Analyze Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's First Event with Her Mom, Doria," 24 Sep. 2018 Fish rained down from the sky in northern Mexico last year, though this instance wasn’t intentional. Michelle Gant, Fox News, "Utah Department of Wildlife drops fish from plane for 'extreme restocking' of lake," 30 Aug. 2018 Including pizza boxes, Ikea receipts, and — in this latest instance — photo evidence of a sleepless night spent tending blownout diapers and a restless baby. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "Joanna Gaines Reveals Where To Buy Everything In Baby Crew's Nursery," 6 Aug. 2018

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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Statistics for instance

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instance

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

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More Definitions for instance



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 \

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 \

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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for instance

Spanish Central: Translation of instance

Nglish: Translation of instance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of instance for Arabic Speakers

Comments on instance

What made you want to look up instance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

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