instance

1 of 2

noun

in·​stance ˈin(t)-stən(t)s How to pronounce instance (audio)
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
3
a
: an individual illustrative of a category or brought forward in support or disproof of a generalization
b
archaic : exception
c
obsolete : token, sign
4
a
: 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

instance

2 of 2

verb

instanced; instancing

transitive verb

1
: to illustrate or demonstrate by an instance
2
: to mention as a case or example : cite
Phrases
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
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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
And these instances harm Google’s public image and trust amongst users as well. John Hall, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The most recent instance was a month ago — courtesy of a younger couple. Sydney Page, Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2024 But that contention is based on FIRE’s database, which indiscriminately lumps together actual terminations with many more instances of mere criticism of professors. David Cole, The New York Review of Books, 15 Feb. 2024 Waymo and competitor Cruise have experienced safety problems in San Francisco, including several instances where driverless cars caused traffic congestion and impeded emergency responders. Ryan MacAsero, The Mercury News, 15 Feb. 2024 The shooting is just the latest instance of gun violence disrupting American life at places once considered safe. Kyle Feldscher, CNN, 14 Feb. 2024 There are also instances where mountain lion attacks might occur because a human inadvertently comes between a female mountain lion and her kittens. Craig Caudill, Field & Stream, 14 Feb. 2024 Live ammunition has made its way onto U.S. movie sets with severe consequences in just a handful of instances. Morgan Lee, Twin Cities, 13 Feb. 2024 More broadly, there are many past instances of a party using caucuses to award national convention delegates even though the state also held a primary. Geoffrey Skelley, ABC News, 5 Feb. 2024
Verb
Topics under discussion included changes in the industry over the last decade, instanced by the rise of digital and gaming, audience fragmentation, and the emergence of disruptive technologies such as AI. Liza Foreman, Variety, 14 Oct. 2023 But there’s been plenty of room for errors and hallucinations, instances when chatbots like ChatGPT have concocted inaccurate—and sometimes worrying—answers to questions. Joseph Abrams, Fortune, 6 Oct. 2023 For, instance the home to the putting surface of the fifth and 13th holes is 100 yards deep and at least 50 yards wide. Steve Dimeglio, USA TODAY, 9 July 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'instance.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English instaunce, instance "insistence, urging, urgent entreaty, present time, case, example," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin instantia "fact of being present or impending, insistence, urgency" (Medieval Latin also "illustrative example, lawsuit, objection, exception"), noun derivative of instant-, instans "pressing, urgent" — more at instant entry 2

Verb

derivative of instance entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near instance

Cite this Entry

“Instance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instance. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

instance

1 of 2 noun
in·​stance ˈin(t)-stən(t)s How to pronounce instance (audio)
1
: request entry 1 sense 1
entered the writing contest at the instance of her teacher
2
: example sense 3
an instance of rare courage
3
: a particular point or step in an action or process
in the first instance

instance

2 of 2 verb
instanced; instancing
: to mention as an example : cite

Legal Definition

instance

noun
in·​stance ˈin-stəns How to pronounce instance (audio)
: the institution or prosecution of a lawsuit
a court of first instance
Etymology

Noun

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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