in·stru·ment | \ˈin(t)-strə-mənt \

Definition of instrument 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device used to produce music also : a singing voice

2a : a means whereby something is achieved, performed, or furthered

b : one used by another as a means or aid : dupe, tool

3 : implement especially : one designed for precision work

4 : a formal legal document (such as a deed, bond, or agreement)

5a : 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


in·stru·ment | \ˈin(t)-strə-ˌment \
instrumented; instrumenting; instruments

Definition of instrument (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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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


instrument, tool, and utensil mean a device for doing work. instrument is used for a device that can be used to do complicated work. The surgeon's instruments were sterilized. tool is used for a device used for a particular job and often suggests that a special skill is needed to use it. A carpenter's tools include hammers and saws. utensil is used for a simple device used in jobs around the house. They bought kitchen utensils.

Examples of instrument in a Sentence


an instrument designed to measure the Earth's atmosphere The piano was his favorite musical instrument. Do you play any instruments?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Built at a cost of 4.4 billion rand, MeerKAT will be incorporated into the complex Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument, which when fully operational in the late 2020s would be the world’s biggest and most powerful radio telescope. Wendell Roelf, The Christian Science Monitor, "South Africa's MeerKAT telescope will help uncover next space frontier," 13 July 2018 Making use of mostly acoustic instruments, the band let the music do all the talking. Sam Tornow, Billboard, "Dawes Delivers Soothing 'Mistakes We Should Have Made' Performance on 'Conan': Watch," 13 July 2018 The primary instrument on the Viking landers, a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, used heat to try and find these molecules. Ashley May, USA TODAY, "NASA may have burned best proof of life on Mars by accident over 40 years ago," 12 July 2018 His mom encouraged him to take on an instrument, and Morimoto chose saxophone, inspired by Lisa Simpson. Hannah Steinkopf-frank, RedEye Chicago, "Sen Morimoto gets moody with his saxophone," 11 July 2018 Lotus World Music Festival Bloomington’s four-day international music and arts fest flies you to Belgium, Russia and Germany sans plane, boat or train — only instruments. Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star, "Ultimate Indiana bucket list: 50+ things to do in Indianapolis and around the state," 11 July 2018 Several of the former Fort Lauderdale rocker’s instruments, including some electric and bass guitars, and his resignation letter from the band are being sold by Goldin Auctions. Johnny Diaz,, "Marilyn Manson co-founder's guitars and sheet music available in auction," 9 July 2018 Imagine: being able to walk into a jam session with an instrument, sit down for a minute or two to get the feel of it, and then just joining a sort of conversation. Brendan Leonard, Outside Online, "Learning to Be Funny," 9 July 2018 Meanwhile, backscatter instruments atop the ship scanned seafloor for any hard objects. Laura Yan, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists May Have Found Meteorite Fragments in the Ocean," 8 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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, "Volcano expert explains the science behind Kilauea's ongoing eruption," 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, "How Afro-Colombian Artist Magín Díaz Went From Anonymity to Latin Grammy-Nominated at 95 Years Old," 7 Nov. 2017 But however well-instrumented, machines can't intuit. Bucky Mcmahon, Popular Mechanics, "What's it like to fly a plane into a hurricane like Irma? We climbed into a NOAA plane in 2016 and flew into the heart of Hurricane Matthew to find out.," 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. Barry Wilner, The Christian Science Monitor, "NFL dedicates large portion of $100 million pledge to neuroscience," 29 Aug. 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, "NFL making $40 million available for medical research," 29 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'instrument.' 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 instrument


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1700, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for instrument


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin instrumentum, from instruere to arrange, instruct

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instrument

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

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More Definitions for instrument



English Language Learners Definition of instrument

: a tool or device used for a particular purpose; especially : a tool or device designed to do careful and exact work

: a device that measures something (such as temperature or distance)

: a device that is used to make music


in·stru·ment | \ˈin-strə-mənt \

Kids Definition of instrument

1 : a tool or device for doing a particular kind of work a dentist's instruments

2 : a device used to produce music

3 : a way of getting something done Curiosity is an instrument of discovery.

4 : a legal document (as a deed)

5 : a device that measures something (as altitude or temperature)


in·stru·ment | \ˈin(t)-strə-mənt \

Medical Definition of instrument 

: any implement, tool, or utensil (as for surgery)

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Legal Definition of instrument 

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

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Comments on instrument

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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