Definition of instance in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈinstəns/


1An example or single occurrence of something: a serious instance of corruption the search finds every instance where the word appears
More example sentences
  • There are lines of communication and despite a few instances which might suggest otherwise, there's been a cordial relationship going on.
  • PorkWatch says there are instances of imported pork and pork products being labelled in ways that might make shoppers think they are British.
  • Importantly, these instances show the direction of the road ahead.
example, exemplar, occasion, occurrence, case;
1.1A particular case: in this instance it mattered little
More example sentences
  • In the first instance, take the matter of evaluation of the worth of a teacher.
  • The detection in these instances is a matter of minutes, but most of these advanced devices are available only in the military.
  • Needless to say, the availability of condoms matters little in these instances.
2 Law , rare The institution of a legal suit.
Example sentences
  • An instance arising at common law is that of self-defence, which, however, once raised must be disproved by the Crown.
  • So he cannot represent the defendant at higher instances without being provided with a representation act issued in the forms provided for by law.
  • His applications to commit Mr Rabinowicz and Mr Osuntokun are one instance.


[with object]
Cite (a fact, case, etc.) as an instance or example: here he instances in particular the work of Bach
More example sentences
  • He agreed that there were few houses being built in rural areas, and instanced the case of the man with the house on the mountainside.
  • He instanced a case of a woman who borrowed £500 from one of these to attend a funeral down the country.
  • In a recent report, Amnesty instanced the case of a farmer from the Shan tribe forced to work by the military.
cite, quote, refer to, mention, allude to, give;
specify, name, identify, draw attention to, put forward, offer, advance



at first instance

Law At the first court hearing concerning a case.
Example sentences
  • The Federal Court of Australia at first instance and then on appeal denied judicial review.
  • That court unanimously dismissed an appeal against a judgment entered by Justice Carr at first instance in that court.
  • His application for judicial review was dismissed at first instance on 11 April 2001.

at the instance of

formal At the request or instigation of: prosecution at the instance of the police
More example sentences
  • In criminal causes, an appeal lies to the House of Lords at the instance of the defendant or prosecutor.
  • Extradition proceedings at the instance of the French prosecuting authorities are pending against Parretti in the USA.
  • But, whether it is so expressed or not, it is in my judgment a duty that is owed to the court and which can be enforced by the court at the instance of the English plaintiffs.

for instance

As an example: take Canada, for instance
More example sentences
  • Beware of people who say they can find you a specific marble mantelpiece, for instance.
  • There may, for instance, be specific evidence pointing to a clear boundary to the market.
  • For instance, he suggested cities share some of their infrastructure with rural neighbors.

in the first (or second, etc.) instance

In the first (or second, etc.) place; at the first (or second, etc.) stage of a proceeding: a tribunal should be formed, in the first instance to document these and other charges
More example sentences
  • In the first instance, the person who killed the baby would receive a life sentence; in the second instance, the doctor would receive a thank you and a large payment.
  • Indeed, in the second instance, even if you somehow got to where you were supposed to be going, how the hell would you know?
  • He said soldiers may have been acting in self-defense in the second instance.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin instantia 'presence, urgency', from instare 'be present, press upon', from in- 'upon' + stare 'to stand'. The original sense was 'urgency, urgent entreaty', surviving in at the instance of. In the late 16th century the word denoted a particular case cited to disprove a general assertion, derived from medieval Latin instantia 'example to the contrary' (translating Greek enstasis 'objection'); hence the meaning 'single occurrence'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·stance

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.