noun in·stance \ ˈin(t)-stən(t)s \
Updated on: 5 Jan 2018

Definition of instance

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

Examples of instance in a Sentence

  1. an instance of great courage

  2. These delays are just another instance of bureaucratic inefficiency.

  3. In most instances the disease can be controlled by medication.

  4. They have decided not to oppose the decision in this instance.

Recent Examples of instance from the Web

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.

First Known Use of instance

14th century

Synonym Discussion of 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




Definition of instance

instanced; instancing
transitive verb
1 : to illustrate or demonstrate by an instance
2 : to mention as a case or example : cite

Examples of instance in a Sentence

  1. instanced one particular incident as an illustration of their penchant for practical jokes

  2. instanced the latest astronomical research in her presentation on measuring star magnitude

First Known Use of instance


INSTANCE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of instance for English Language Learners

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

INSTANCE Defined for Kids


noun in·stance \ ˈin-stəns \

Definition of instance for Students

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.

Law Dictionary


noun in·stance \ ˈin-stəns \

legal Definition of instance

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

Origin and Etymology of 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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