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

The country’s first deep-space mission, Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, was instrumental in the discovery of water on the moon’s surface. Niha Masih, Washington Post, "Moon mission is a signal of India’s growing space ambitions," 12 July 2019 Gudin was given his first command in 1799, and was instrumental in Napoleon’s conquest of Europe. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Remains of Napoleonic General Believed to Have Been Found in Russian Park," 12 July 2019 Colaussi was instrumental in Italy's 1938 World Cup triumph, scoring in the quarter-final, semi-final, and two in the final itself., "Vittorio Pozzo: Il Vecchio Maestro's All-Time Best XI," 11 July 2019 Modi was instrumental in instituting the International Day of Yoga (in) 2015, which is now observed globally. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Narendra Modi inspires more Indians to stay fit than sportspersons or film stars," 10 July 2019 Few anglers may know McGovern, a past-president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, was instrumental in the 1974 initiative petition to declare steelhead a game fish., "Monroe: Ocean fishing has vastly improved this summer," 6 July 2019 Skelly was instrumental not just in bringing bike lanes to his adopted home of Houston, but in the Texas wind-power boom of the early 2000s. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "Adieu Thrones, bye Avengers—this is the TV/film we’re eyeing for the rest of 2019," 6 July 2019 On Miedema’s left will be 2017 FIFA World Player of the Year Lieke Martens, who was instrumental in helping the team to a surprising win in UEFA Euro 2017. Hayden Bird,, "Guide to the Women’s World Cup Final," 6 July 2019 His great influence over the royal family was instrumental in damaging their reputation. Elena Nicolaou,, "The Dramatic True Story Of Russia's Last Dynasty, The Romanovs," 5 July 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.

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

16 Jul 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



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

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).


to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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