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 For over 32 years, The Broadview Heights Lions Club has been instrumental in the success of this wonderful program. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "Bells were ringing for the Yuletide Hunger Program: Talk of the Towns," 10 Jan. 2020 Lengyel also was instrumental in the creation and development of the Disney Sports and the Parks Alliance Development organizations that support joint marketing programs of the company's theme parks and major global corporations. Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, "Phil Lengyel, Longtime Disney Marketing Executive, Dies at 70," 9 Jan. 2020 In addition, Sandoval was also successful as Mexia ISD’s athletic director, according to superintendent Lyle DuBus, who said Sandoval was instrumental in starting a compeitive girls soccer team in the district. Joseph Hoyt, Dallas News, "Mexia’s Frank Sandoval hired as the next head coach at West Mesquite," 8 Jan. 2020 Mark Feinberg, Merck’s former chief science officer, was instrumental in getting the company to agree to develop the vaccine. Helen Branswell, STAT, "An Ebola vaccine was more than two decades in the making. Here are some key people who made it happen," 7 Jan. 2020 Hill, the Saints’ do-it-all reserve QB, was instrumental in the first touchdown drive of the game. Brett Martel,, "Kirk Cousins wins a big one, crushing Saints with another overtime ouster," 5 Jan. 2020 Other woody plants work in a more supporting role but are instrumental in reordering the garden — creating enclosure, say, where there is now relentless lawn. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "Planning your 2020 garden? You’ll want to check out the year’s Gold Medal Plants.," 1 Jan. 2020 Above and beyond providing products, these gatherings have been instrumental in helping create safe spaces where young women feel empowered to think differently about their own bodies. Chioma Nnadi, Vogue, "Meet the Woman Bringing the Menstrual Cup Movement to Ethiopia," 30 Dec. 2019 Powell was instrumental in guiding North Oldham to runner-up in the King of the Bluegrass last week and was named the tournament MVP. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "North Oldham basketball star Justin Powell to get MRI after knee injury," 28 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for instrumental

Time Traveler

The first known use of instrumental was in 1616

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Statistics for instrumental

Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Instrumental.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for instrumental


How to pronounce instrumental (audio)

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

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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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