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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web With water conservation and sustainable technology set to take center stage in the coming years, Hydraloop’s water recycler is a no-brainer of an invention. Time, "The 25 Best Products of CES 2020," 9 Jan. 2020 Referee Taylor originally awarded a free kick against Alonso, somewhat bizarrely, only to reverse the decision after an invention by the video assistant referee. Washington Post, "Racism protocol implemented for 1st time in Premier League," 22 Dec. 2019 But his vocabulary infuriated some word nerds who say irregardless is an invention employed by ignoramuses. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The impeachment debate has sparked a linguistic war over the word “irregardless”," 19 Dec. 2019 Brown Sugar Sticky Rice, an invention of the Payne Dagu Kitchen, is a culinary act of léger de main, short grain sticky rice formed into bars, then coated with fritter batter, deep-fried and laced with brown sugar syrup and crushed peanuts. Beth Segal, cleveland, "Dagu Rice Noodle: Big bowls of warm comfort as Cleveland’s cold weather sets in," 18 Oct. 2019 The large office, like the factory, is an invention of the past two centuries. The Economist, "Even if WeWork is in trouble the office is still being reinvented," 28 Sep. 2019 That group eventually refined Kwolek’s work into Kevlar, an invention credited with saving thousands of lives and making DuPont billions of dollars. Dan Samorodnitsky, Smithsonian, "You Can Thank Chemist Stephanie Kwolek for Bulletproof Vests and Yoga Pants," 21 Aug. 2019 Drug makers would lose the incentive to develop innovative medicine like the insulin pill -- an invention that could spare up to 30 million American diabetes patients the daily pain of injecting insulin into their bodies. Randall Rutta For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Lawmakers want to lower drug prices. Their plan would end up harming patients," 20 Aug. 2019 After months of work, a group of students from Lone Star College-CyFair will have an invention of theirs used by NASA in future endeavors. Chevall Pryce, Houston Chronicle, "Cy-Fair college students create tool for NASA missions," 29 July 2019

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.

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First Known Use of invention

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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Time Traveler for invention

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for invention

Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Invention.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for invention


How to pronounce invention (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of invention

: a useful new device or process
: something (such as a false story) that is made up
: the act of inventing something


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

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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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