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

ShowerShroom is a life-changing invention that captures all the hair and other debris that ends up in your drain. Katina Beniaris, Country Living, "This Hair-Catching Tool With Thousands of Five-Star Reviews Is On Sale Today," 10 Aug. 2018 This was a clever invention and a great way to annoy anyone around you within earshot. Sable Yong, Allure, "How to Contour Your Brows With Benefit's New 4-in-1 Brow Contour Pro," 6 Aug. 2018 Unlike San Francisco, its more established and establishment rival to the north, Los Angeles had an openness to schemes and self-invention, for good and ill. Leo Braudy, New York Times, "Los Angeles as the City of Dreams, and Nightmares," 1 June 2018 From the Archive] •S.F. History 101: Take a trip through 150 years of San Francisco’s transit history, from the invention of the cable cars to the laying of the Central Subway Project that’s still ongoing. Bill Van Niekerken, San Francisco Chronicle, "When the Concorde supersonic turbojet roared into the Bay Area," 30 May 2018 The case before the court centered on an invention for protecting oil wellhead equipment during the hydraulic fracturing process. Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Supreme Court Upholds New Process for Challenging Patents," 24 Apr. 2018 At an early point in his fasihon career Givenchy borrowed from women's sportswear, an American invention, for his collections. Mary Rourke,, "Hubert de Givenchy dies at 91; courtly designer dressed Audrey Hepburn, built fashion empire," 12 Mar. 2018 Unfortunately, Martinson didn’t save his early sit ski prototypes, but the American History Museum acquired a photograph of him in his sit ski invention for the collections. Jane Rogers, Smithsonian, "The Unbreakable Spirit of American Paralympians is Embodied in These Artifacts," 6 Feb. 2018 The genius invention known as a pull down bed, wall bed, and fold-down bed should really be called the space-saver bed—and that's no different for the pup version. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Trying to Save Some Space? Your Dog Should Have Its Own Murphy Bed," 15 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.

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First Known Use of invention

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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Statistics for invention

Last Updated

9 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for invention

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

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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

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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).


likely to have or produce good results

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