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

The IEEE Milestone program, administered by the IEEE History Center, honors significant inventions, locations, and events related to electrical engineering and computing that have benefitted humanity. Paul Gattis |, al, "UAH honored for landmark superconductor discovery," 19 Aug. 2019 Intellectual property lawyers deal with the laws related to inventions, patents, trademarks, and creative works. Kate Knight, Houston Chronicle, "A legal education: What do attorneys do?," 15 Aug. 2019 Among Alexander Graham Bell's other inventions: a metal detector to try to locate the bullet that ultimately took the life of President James Garfield; and a hydrofoil that reached the then-unheard-of speed of 72 miles per hour. CBS News, "Almanac: The day telephones fell silent across North America," 4 Aug. 2019 Like many of humanity’s great inventions, the sugar snap pea cleaves history into two distinct eras. I was born in 1986, squarely in the post-sugar snap age. Gene Tempest,, "The sugar snap pea turns 50," 23 July 2019 So, too, have more recent inventions, like cars, bicycles, trains, and subways, say Jungian interpreters. Lila Maclellan, Quartz at Work, "Get to know the symbolism in your daily commute," 11 July 2019 That suggests dancing is not some random, arbitrary human invention, but a result of unique social and neurological conditions that go very far back. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "What This Head-Banging, Body-Rolling Cockatoo Teaches Us About the Evolution of Dance," 11 July 2019 The government required Bell to give away its non-phone inventions, which is how the transistor, CCD chip, solar cell, laser, Unix, and so on became public domain. Safi Bahcall, WIRED, "NASA Needs to Out-Crazy Elon Musk," 3 July 2019 This invention, called the Hang N Lock, will automatically level your out-of-balance picture frame for you. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Finally, a Picture Hanging Tool That Automatically Levels the Frame," 16 May 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

27 Aug 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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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