instrumental

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Kentucky Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was instrumental in getting industrial hemp legalized, spearheading the Farm Bill’s passage through Congress. Meredith Clark, Marie Claire, "Is CBD Even Legal Where You Live?," 12 Apr. 2019 Lake Street Dive have serious instrumental and vocal chops. John Adamian, courant.com, "Lake Street Dive To Perform At College Street," 28 Apr. 2018 Chiuri, a committed feminist since her appointment three years ago at the French house, was instrumental in having Dior sponsoring the exhibition. Tiziana Cardini, Vogue, "In Milan, A New Exhibition Celebrates Italian Feminist Artists of the 1970s," 5 Apr. 2019 Given that Bell had been instrumental in the Carter-era creation of the Department of Education, the move perplexed just about everyone in Washington, conservative and liberal. Chuck Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The State of American Trade Schools," 13 Mar. 2019 Takada composed the instrumental for the 20-minute short film, which is directed by Partel Oliva. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Two Generations of Experimental Musical Artists Join Forces for a Dreamy New Kenzo Video," 12 July 2018 The Teen Creative Talent Show is 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 9, featuring skits, instrumental music and talents other than singing and dancing. Linda Mcintosh, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Vista Boys & Girls Club gala raises $85K ...community news," 11 July 2018 McConnell said when the district dropped fees for instrumental music, participation in band and orchestra jumped. Steve Sadin, chicagotribune.com, "New libraries at Caruso and Shepard designed with an eye toward collaboration, technology," 9 July 2018 Producers Nick Patrick and Don Reedman seamlessly weaved this instrumental embroidery into the familiar tracks, skillfully enhancing the Beach Boys’ trademark vocal blend. Jordan Runtagh, PEOPLE.com, "The Beach Boys in Their Own Words: America's Band Tells the Tales Behind Their Pop Masterpieces," 8 June 2018

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about instrumental

Statistics for instrumental

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instrumental

The first known use of instrumental was in 1616

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for instrumental

instrumental

adjective

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

instrumental

adjective
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

instrumental

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

Medical Definition of instrumental

: operant instrumental learning instrumental conditioning

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on instrumental

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to move or proceed with twists and turns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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