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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Myers said of the fraud instances cited in the report. Chad Terhune, Washington Post, "Insurers Fall Short In Catching And Reporting Medicaid Fraud, Inspectors Find," 12 July 2018 Three of those instances were because of the parents' criminal past, including drug smuggling and assault, Owen said. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "CBP: No family separations happening at border ports from zero-tolerance policy," 9 July 2018 In all of these instances, these women are able to take the offensive roles thrust open them by the likes of a well-meaning but bumbling Sam and recreate the parts for themselves., "If You Only Watch One Netflix Episode This Weekend, Make It This One From Glow," 6 July 2018 There have been a number of instances over the past decade where homophobic slurs and chants from baseball stadiums have made headlines. NBC News, "Yankees set to be only MLB team not to host LGBTQ Pride Night," 5 July 2018 The researchers also observed that individuals only washed their hands after a possible cause of cross-contamination — such as handling raw meat — in about a third of instances. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "You're Probably Not Washing Your Hands Right, Study Says," 30 June 2018 Foreign agents told British officers of 128 instances of detainee abuse; in 25 cases, detainees told British agents that they had been abused, and in 13, the agents witnessed the abuse themselves. New York Times, "Britain Abetted U.S. Torture of Terrorism Suspects, Parliament Finds," 28 June 2018 Looking back, his parents tried to think of instances in which Tyler might have suffered any sort of head trauma. Stefanie Loh, The Seattle Times, "WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski had signs of CTE at suicide, family says," 26 June 2018 The largest sum of the three instances was taken on Jan. 9, 2013 and totaled $180,000, according to the documents. Madeline Mitchell,, "Ft. Mitchell man sentenced for embezzling $248,000 from ex-wife's pension plan," 11 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of instance


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


1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about instance

Phrases Related to instance

in the first instance

Statistics for instance

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instance

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on instance

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).


required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!