in·​ven·​tion | \ in-ˈven(t)-shən How to pronounce invention (audio) \

Definition of invention

1a : something invented: such as
(1) : a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment
(2) : a product of the imagination especially : a false conception
b : a short keyboard composition featuring two- or three-part counterpoint
2 : the act or process of inventing
3 : productive imagination : inventiveness

What is the difference between innovation and invention?

The words innovation and invention overlap semantically but are really quite distinct.

Invention can refer to a type of musical composition, a falsehood, a discovery, or any product of the imagination. The sense of invention most likely to be confused with innovation is “a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment,” usually something which has not previously been in existence.

Innovation, for its part, can refer to something new or to a change made to an existing product, idea, or field. One might say that the first telephone was an invention, the first cellular telephone either an invention or an innovation, and the first smartphone an innovation.

Examples of invention in a Sentence

The light bulb was one of the most important inventions of the 19th century. The stories he told about his military service were just inventions. His explanation was pure invention. Parts of the movie were accurate, but much of it was invention. the invention of a new product the invention of a false story an artist with exceptional powers of invention See More
Recent Examples on the Web Winning the World Cup in 2006, something that occurred before the invention of the iPhone. New York Times, 6 May 2022 Something was going on well before the invention of the steam engine. Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2022 Before the invention of the sewing machine during the Industrial Revolution, producing clothes was a slow, expensive and painstaking process. Emma Seymour, Good Housekeeping, 21 Apr. 2022 Primer is an older competitor in this space, founded two years before the invention of the transformer. Rob Toews, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2022 The cooking fireplace in the home’s first kitchen remains and is located in what now is the basement, while three other wood-burning fireplaces provided warmth before the invention of central heating. Mary Carole Mccauley,, 24 Feb. 2022 Before the invention of movies, viewers could enjoy moving images on devices like the zoetrope, a rotating cylinder with a sequence of images visible through slits. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 4 Feb. 2022 For Steve, John’s best hope faded long ago, when California discarded institutions like the one in Washington state where his schizophrenic great-uncle Leonard lived for most of his adult life — before the invention of psychotropic drugs. Doug Smith Senior Writer, Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov. 2021 Forget the outdated ritual of the mother-of-pearl spoon, an affectation born of an era before the invention of stainless steel. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'invention.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of invention

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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The first known use of invention was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Invention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for invention


in·​ven·​tion | \ in-ˈven-shən How to pronounce invention (audio) \

Kids Definition of invention

1 : an original device or process
2 : lie entry 3 The story was just an invention.
3 : the act or process of inventing
4 : the ability to think of new ideas He was a man of invention.



Legal Definition of invention

: a device, process, or discovery under U.S. patent law that is new and useful, that reflects extraordinary creative ability or skill, and that makes a distinct and recognized contribution to and advancement of science also : the act or process of creating such an invention — compare aggregation, combination, equivalent

More from Merriam-Webster on invention

Nglish: Translation of invention for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of invention for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about invention


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