Definition of instrument in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɪnstrʊm(ə)nt/


1A tool or implement, especially one for precision work: a surgical instrument instruments of torture writing instruments
More example sentences
  • The use of robotics in medicine allows for unprecedented control and precision of surgical instruments in minimally invasive procedures.
  • I am a surgeon, so my tools are my surgical instruments.
  • Well, they are holding a pen fair, from April 19 to April 21, to showcase a plethora of pens and writing instruments.
implement, tool, utensil, device, apparatus, contrivance, gadget, contraption, appliance, mechanism
informal gizmo
2A measuring device used to gauge the level, position, speed, etc. of something, especially a motor vehicle or aircraft: a new instrument for measuring ozone levels myriad instruments and switches
More example sentences
  • In low visibility, they help guide pilots to the runway as we transition from flying on the aircraft's instruments to a visual landing.
  • The group will use an accousticom instrument to measure radiation levels in and around homes.
  • Test aircraft are well covered, along with other, usually neglected, topics such as manufacturing and aircraft instruments.
measuring device, gauge, meter, measure;
indicator, dial, display
3 (also musical instrument) An object or device for producing musical sounds: the value of learning to play a musical instrument the musicians started tuning their instruments a percussion instrument
More example sentences
  • The multi-talented performer plays an array of instruments including piano, guitar, bass, trumpet and saxophone.
  • I'm rooted in acoustic instruments like upright piano and violin, so my keyboard was the first electronic thing I'd ever used.
  • In common with most percussion instruments, the piano is incapable of producing continuous notes.
4A means of pursuing an aim: the failure of education as an instrument of social reform
More example sentences
  • Both have committed themselves to developing education as an instrument of social change.
  • The decay of American liberalism as a credible instrument of social reform can be traced all the way back to the first decades of the twentieth century.
  • The court was laden with judges who believe strongly in judicial activism - liberally interpreting the law so that it can be used an instrument of social reform.
agent, agency, catalyst, cause, factor, channel, force, medium, means, mechanism, vehicle, organ
4.1A person who is exploited or made use of: he was a mere instrument acting under coercion
More example sentences
  • ‘No one is a mere instrument, no one a serf,’ said Friedrich Schiller.
  • The worker no longer sees himself as a mere instrument for fulfilling the needs of the entrepreneur.
  • The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became a mere instrument for the production of children.
pawn, puppet, creature, dupe, hostage, counter, cog;
tool, cat's paw
informal stooge
5A formal or legal document: execution involves signature and unconditional delivery of the instrument
More example sentences
  • The Magna Carta is often regarded as one of the first instruments which documented due process.
  • Without the ability to resort to formal regulatory and legal instruments, the Japanese bureaucracy could guide but could not lead.
  • The result is that if the memorandum were to have any effect at all, it had to be as a testamentary instrument, and not as document creating an inter vivos trust.


[with object]
Equip (something) with measuring instruments: engineers have instrumented rockets to study the upper atmosphere a DC-8 aircraft instrumented as a flying laboratory
More example sentences
  • For Protocol 4, animals were instrumented before delivery to measure pulmonary artery pressure and left atrial pressure.
  • In this study, 12 animals were instrumented as in the mechanical ventilation study, but in addition, both hindlimbs were immobilized.
  • Numerous challenges arise in instrumenting any field test to acquire the data necessary for specific test measures.


Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin instrumentum 'equipment, implement', from the verb instruere 'construct, equip'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: in¦stru|ment

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