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

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Other Words from instrumental

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

Carrie Trimmier-McCrorey, who serves as the State Representative for the Connecticut American Double-Dutch League, was instrumental in bringing the competition back to the state. Tyra Mcclung,, "A double-dutch championship has returned to Connecticut and there are high hopes for the future of the sport here," 15 June 2019 Easterby sat in with Belichick on every personnel meeting, and following the Aaron Hernandez episode, Easterby was instrumental in helping the coach determine which players could and could not thrive in the Patriots’ system. Ben Volin,, "NFL teams take care of last-minute business prior to vacation," 15 June 2019 The Gay Coalition of Denver was instrumental in the 1973 gay revolt, which became known as Denver’s own Stonewall moment. Carina Julig, The Denver Post, "On 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the Denver LGBTQ community reflects on the moment that “blew open the doors”," 14 June 2019 The Liverpool Historical Society was instrumental in obtaining the grant and has collected part of the in-kind funds. Sam Boyer,, "Gardening has proved to be a challenge so far this year: Whit & Whimsey," 14 June 2019 As music editor, Christgau was instrumental in hiring many of the young Black writers that composed the first wave of hip-hop critics, including Greg Tate, Nelson George, and Barry Michael Cooper. Michael Gonzales, Longreads, "It’s Like That: The Makings of a Hip-Hop Writer," 10 June 2019 The group was instrumental in compiling a comprehensive presentation that is being implemented in other Sotheby’s International Realty offices across the nation. Houston Chronicle, "Naseeka Cox named Employee of the Year by local firm," 9 June 2019 Russia was not involved in D-Day but was instrumental in defeating the Nazis on the Eastern Front. Danica Kirka, Time, "President Trump Joins World Leaders to Honor Veterans on D-Day Anniversary," 5 June 2019 Russia was not involved in D-Day but was instrumental in defeating the Nazis on the Eastern Front. Danica Kirka, Anchorage Daily News, "World leaders honor veterans in commemoration of D-Day 75th anniversary," 5 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of instrumental

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for instrumental

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instrumental

The first known use of instrumental was in 1616

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More Definitions for instrumental



English Language Learners Definition of instrumental

: very important in helping or causing something to happen or be done
music : 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on instrumental

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with instrumental

Spanish Central: Translation of instrumental

Nglish: Translation of instrumental for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of instrumental for Arabic Speakers

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showing courage and determination

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