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.

Example Sentences

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 The exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, which runs through June 4, is full of arresting pictures, many of them from the mid-1660s when Vermeer’s career was at its peak of focus and invention. Teju Cole, New York Times, 25 May 2023 Hardly a modern invention, the electric car has a history tracing back all the way to the mid-1800s. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 25 May 2023 The lack of narrative invention is only a single issue in a film filled with them. Vulture, 22 May 2023 The invention consisted of a cabinet providing physical and biochemical support for an animal’s head severed from its body. Scott Lafee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 May 2023 The National Historic Landmark, which is operated by Phoenix and preserves Huhugam artifacts and inventions, is now called the S'eḏav Va'aki Museum after the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board unanimously agreed to the name change on March 23. Kimi Robinson, The Arizona Republic, 15 May 2023 What in most games is a chore here is simply an act of visual invention. Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2023 In a landmark case, a federal jury on Tuesday rejected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s gambit to extract enormous royalties from Gilead Sciences Inc. for a fictitious claim of government invention. The Editorial Board,, 10 May 2023 These artificial intelligence inventions don’t rival human ingenuity—although their capacity to grow more intelligent than humans is real. Jane Thier, Fortune, 6 May 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 31 May. 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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