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[in-struh-muh nt] /ˈɪn strə mənt/
a mechanical tool or implement, especially one used for delicate or precision work:
surgical instruments.
a contrivance or apparatus for producing musical sounds:
a stringed instrument.
a means by which something is effected or done; agency:
an instrument of government.
a device for measuring the present value of a quantity under observation.
a mechanical or electronic measuring device, especially one used in navigation:
landing a plane by instruments.
a formal legal document, as a draft or bond:
negotiable instruments.
a person used by another merely as a means to some private end; tool or dupe.
verb (used with object)
to equip with instruments, as a machine or manufacturing process:
to instrument a space vehicle.
to arrange a composition for musical instruments; orchestrate.
Origin of instrument
1250-1300; Middle English < Latin instrūmentum equip-ment, equivalent to instrū-, stem of instruere to equip (see instruct) + -mentum -ment; see instruct
Related forms
underinstrument, noun
1. See tool. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for instrument
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As respects this allocation, how would I modify that instrument?

    'Tis Sixty Years Since Charles Francis Adams
  • But the knowledge of the instrument once acquired never left Shakespeare.

    The Man Shakespeare Frank Harris
  • It was only in this room at Mrs. Menotti's that Rico fully enjoyed his instrument.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • The finer the instrument is to be, the more massive must be the foundation.

    Understanding the Scriptures Francis McConnell
  • It is not every singer that could keep Time with his voice and instrument, for a whole evening.

    Time's Portraiture Nathaniel Hawthorne
British Dictionary definitions for instrument


noun (ˈɪnstrəmənt)
a mechanical implement or tool, esp one used for precision work: surgical instrument
(music) any of various contrivances or mechanisms that can be played to produce musical tones or sounds
an important factor or agency in something: her evidence was an instrument in his arrest
(informal) a person used by another to gain an end; dupe; tool
a measuring device, such as a pressure gauge or ammeter
  1. a device or system for use in navigation or control, esp of aircraft
  2. (as modifier): instrument landing
a formal legal document
verb (transitive) (ˈɪnstrəˌmɛnt)
another word for orchestrate (sense 1)
to equip with instruments
Word Origin
C13: from Latin instrūmentum tool, equipment, from instruere to erect, furnish; see instruct
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for instrument

late 13c., "musical instrument," from Old French instrument "means, device; musical instrument" (14c., earlier estrument, 13c.) and directly from Latin instrumentem "a tool, apparatus, furniture, dress, document," from instruere "arrange, furnish" (see instruct). Meaning "tool, implement, utensil" is early 14c. in English; meaning "written document by which formal expression is given to a legal act" is from early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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instrument in Medicine

instrument in·stru·ment (ĭn'strə-mənt)
A tool or implement, as for surgery.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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