instrument

1 of 2

noun

in·​stru·​ment ˈin(t)-strə-mənt How to pronounce instrument (audio)
1
: a device used to produce music
also : a singing voice
2
: implement
especially : one designed for precision work
3
a
: a measuring device for determining the present value of a quantity under observation
b
: an electrical or mechanical device used in navigating an airplane
especially : such a device used as the sole means of navigating
4
a
: a means whereby something is achieved, performed, or furthered
b
: one used by another as a means or aid : dupe, tool
5
: a formal legal document (such as a deed, bond, or agreement)

instrument

2 of 2

verb

in·​stru·​ment ˈin(t)-strə-ˌment How to pronounce instrument (audio)
instrumented; instrumenting; instruments

transitive verb

1
: to address a legal instrument to
2
: to score for musical performance : orchestrate
3
: to equip with instruments especially for measuring and recording data
Choose the Right Synonym for instrument

implement, tool, instrument, appliance, utensil mean a relatively simple device for performing work.

implement may apply to anything necessary to perform a task.

crude stone implements
farm implements

tool suggests an implement adapted to facilitate a definite kind or stage of work and suggests the need of skill more strongly than implement.

a carpenter's tools

instrument suggests a device capable of delicate or precise work.

the dentist's instruments

appliance refers to a tool or instrument utilizing a power source and suggests portability or temporary attachment.

household appliances

utensil applies to a device used in domestic work or some routine unskilled activity.

kitchen utensils

Examples of instrument in a Sentence

Noun an instrument designed to measure the Earth's atmosphere The piano was his favorite musical instrument. Do you play any instruments?
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
On board are instruments built primarily by undergraduate science and engineering students. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR, 8 Apr. 2024 Israel has turned the basic human needs of civilians in Gaza into an instrument of pressure in hostage negotiations with Hamas. Hussein Ibish, The Atlantic, 5 Apr. 2024 Both enemies prove to be equally dangerous, while Spielberg portrays the men as dutiful but conflicted instruments of national vengeance. Dennis Perkins, EW.com, 5 Apr. 2024 These transcriptions were no longer piano etudes, per se, but the performances conveyed the essence of practicing, of learning a piece by slowly going over and over passages, getting more and more inside the sound of your instrument. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2024 In 1948, only 3% of American homes had television sets; by the time of the Stevenson-Eisenhower rematch, 80% were equipped with TV, an instrument that was permanently altering the nation’s entertainment preferences and habits of acquiring information. TIME, 4 Apr. 2024 The parameters and instruments are pre-assigned to all possible data values the telescope could pick up. Aaron Boorstein, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Apr. 2024 As well as taking care of her instrument, Lulu also revealed that her long career has been helped by maintaining a keen interest in meditation for more than four decades. Jack Guy, CNN, 2 Apr. 2024 At the time the Sgr A* observations were captured, the EHT collaboration was using eight telescopes around the world, linking them together to create a planet-sized, albeit virtual, instrument. Bill Chappell, NPR, 28 Mar. 2024
Verb
Swedish scientists who instrumented grizzlies there concluded that the animals might become hot in their superinsulated space with the returning hours of sunshine. Ned Rozell | Alaska Science, Anchorage Daily News, 29 Apr. 2023 Unlike earthquake prediction — which in terms of short-term prediction is currently not feasible and may never be feasible on a short timescale — volcano prediction is feasible and is common if volcanoes are instrumented. NBC News, 23 May 2018 Bullerengue is a genre led mainly by elderly women, instrumented exclusively with artisan drums, and preserved through oral tradition. Marjua Estevez, Billboard, 7 Nov. 2017 But however well-instrumented, machines can't intuit. Bucky McMahon, Popular Mechanics, 8 Sep. 2017 The plan is for the NFL, when the technology is ready, to offer mouth guards instrumented with such sensors to players to measure their impact response. USA TODAY, 29 Aug. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'instrument.' 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, from Anglo-French, from Latin instrumentum, from instruere to arrange, instruct

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

circa 1700, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near instrument

Cite this Entry

“Instrument.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instrument. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

instrument

noun
in·​stru·​ment
ˈin(t)-strə-mənt
1
: a device used to produce music
2
: a means of getting something done
curiosity is an instrument of discovery
3
: a tool or implement designed especially for precision work
a surgical instrument
4
: an official legal document (as a deed, bond, or agreement)
5
a
: a measuring device for finding out the present value of a quantity under observation
b
: an electrical or mechanical device used in navigating an airplane
especially : such a device used as the only way of navigating

Medical Definition

instrument

noun
in·​stru·​ment ˈin(t)-strə-mənt How to pronounce instrument (audio)
: any implement, tool, or utensil (as for surgery)

Legal Definition

instrument

noun
in·​stru·​ment
1
: a means or implement by which something is achieved, performed, or furthered
an instrument of crime
2
: a document (as a deed, will, bond, note, certificate of deposit, insurance policy, warrant, or writ) evidencing rights or duties especially of one party to another under the law
a person is not liable on an instrument unless the person signed the instrumentUniform Commercial Code
an indictment is a form of charging instrument
specifically : negotiable instrument

More from Merriam-Webster on instrument

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