in·​stru·​men·​tal | \ ˌin(t)-strə-ˈmen-tᵊl How to pronounce instrumental (audio) \

Definition of instrumental

1a : serving as a crucial means, agent, or tool was instrumental in organizing the strike
b : of, relating to, or done with an instrument or tool
2 : relating to, composed for, or performed on a musical instrument
3 : of, relating to, or being a grammatical case or form expressing means or agency
4 : of or relating to instrumentalism
5 : operant sense 3 instrumental learning instrumental conditioning

Other Words from instrumental

instrumental noun
instrumentally \ ˌin(t)-​strə-​ˈmen-​tᵊl-​ē How to pronounce instrumental (audio) \ adverb

Did you know?

An instrument is a tool, something used to construct. It's often a tool for making music. A musical saw happens to be a carpenter's tool that can be played with a violin bow (though you probably wouldn't want to play a wrench or a pair of pliers). The musical meanings of instrumental, as in "It starts with an instrumental piece" or "a jazz instrumental", are common. But the meanings "helpful", "useful", and "essential", as in "He was instrumental in getting my book published", are just as common.

Examples of instrumental in a Sentence

They played instrumental music at the wedding. an instrumental version of a song
Recent Examples on the Web Having her [Zendaya] in my life was so instrumental to my sanity. Marianne Garvey, CNN, 18 Nov. 2021 The national presence of iHeartRadio is instrumental to the success of the program, Pittman notes. Michele Amabile Angermiller, Variety, 10 Nov. 2021 There are plenty of examples, notable ones, that seem to showcase that a deadline was instrumental to making progress in circumstances that were abundantly new, unproven, and for which the path forward was fraught with innumerable unknowns. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 4 Nov. 2021 Its services have become instrumental to all of us. Charles M. Miller, National Review, 8 Oct. 2021 The show of solidarity was instrumental to the orchestra reaching three-year deals with the Kennedy Center and the Washington National Opera, de Boor said. Washington Post, 7 Oct. 2021 Centerback Robin Jansson is instrumental to the Lions’ defensive success, but his presence in the box on set pieces has become a major impact for Orlando City in a recent matches. Julia Poe,, 3 Oct. 2021 Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was instrumental to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, passed in August by the Senate and pending House approval. NBC News, 29 Sep. 2021 In particular, Seffinger was struck by the guidelines because interns were so instrumental to the festival. Los Angeles Times, 25 Sep. 2021

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

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Learn More About instrumental

Time Traveler for instrumental

Time Traveler

The first known use of instrumental was in 1616

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near instrumental



instrumental goods

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for instrumental

Last Updated

21 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Instrumental.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for instrumental



English Language Learners Definition of instrumental

: very important in helping or causing something to happen or be done
: written for or performed on musical instruments : not including singing


in·​stru·​men·​tal | \ ˌin-strə-ˈmen-tᵊl How to pronounce instrumental (audio) \

Kids Definition of instrumental

1 : acting to get something done He was instrumental in organizing the club.
2 : relating to or done with an instrument instrumental navigation
3 : played on an instrument rather than sung instrumental music


in·​stru·​men·​tal | \ ˌin(t)-strə-ˈment-ᵊl How to pronounce instrumental (audio) \

Medical Definition of instrumental

: operant instrumental learning instrumental conditioning


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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