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

Keep scrolling for more

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 What makes good games matter is the commitment of their players to the rules as the springboard of invention. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Helen Frankenthaler and the Messy Art of Life," 5 Apr. 2021 And there’s one more cliché at work — necessity is the mother of invention. Michael Granberry, Dallas News, "Art and the City: Streaming, outdoor venues and teamwork allowed Dallas arts groups to draft a Silver Linings Playbook," 2 Apr. 2021 Necessity as the mother of invention led to a new use for Kickstarter in the past year. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, "Taylor: Kickstart my heart," 10 Mar. 2021 One of the most overused phrases of the past year is necessity is the mother of invention. Meghan M. Biro, Forbes, "Managing The Workplace Experience: How To Get It Right," 1 Mar. 2021 Necessity is one mother of all this invention, but another is creative response to a changing economy. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘It’s people being resourceful’: Why business startups are booming," 23 Mar. 2021 Here, the untrammeled imagination presents itself not as a fount of invention but an instrument of oppression. James Campbell, WSJ, "Deconstruction, Identity and the Dying Art of Criticism," 19 Mar. 2021 Hormonal contraception, which now includes not only the pill but the injection, the implant and the Mirena IUD, has been hailed by some as the greatest scientific invention of the 20th century. Vicky Spratt,, "Hysterical Women: Why Is Hormonal Contraception Still Failing Us?," 10 Sep. 2020 Many viewed the event as an accomplishment of the same magnitude as the invention of barbed wire. oregonlive, "A novel of Montana, wolves and family, Joe Wilkins’ fiction debut is filled with humanity," 1 Mar. 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.

See More

First Known Use of invention

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about invention

Time Traveler for invention

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for invention

Last Updated

17 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Invention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for invention



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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on invention

What made you want to look up invention? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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