in·​ven·​tion in-ˈven(t)-shən How to pronounce invention (audio)
: something invented: such as
: a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment
: a product of the imagination
especially : a false conception
: a short keyboard composition featuring two- or three-part counterpoint
: the act or process of inventing
: productive imagination : inventiveness

Did you know?

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 This approach gave us agriculture, one of the most transformative cultural inventions in human history. Shawn Walsh, Quanta Magazine, 29 Nov. 2023 Modern terrorism can be chalked up to the invention of dynamite in 1867. Audrey Kurth Cronin, Foreign Affairs, 22 Nov. 2023 In the new film, Dexter (Thompson) is forced to return to Good Burger after his latest invention goes awry. Joe Otterson, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 Supporters claimed one of his inventions actually flew to a height of 40 feet during a demonstration at Benning Racetrack, crashing only because of pilot error. John Kelly, Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2023 From the beginning, Rowland’s invention wasn’t just a doll but a brand. Lizzie Feidelson, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2023 Likewise, the 1950s and 2020s are times of rapidly changing technology and societies that are both fascinated and slightly intimidated by new inventions and the interconnected world. Maggie Gillette, Better Homes & Gardens, 3 Nov. 2023 The world knows her great achievement with the invention of Liquid Paper, but that’s about it. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 19 Nov. 2023 Relatively constant temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations enabled the development of agriculture, the construction of cities, the invention of writing and plumbing and antibiotics. Frank Hulley-Jones, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'invention.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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

Dictionary Entries Near invention

Cite this Entry

“Invention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ven·​tion in-ˈven-chən How to pronounce invention (audio)
: something invented
especially : an original device or process
: an imaginary story
: the act, process, or power of inventing

Legal Definition


: 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

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