verb (used with object), im·pro·vised, im·pro·vis·ing.

to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; extemporize: to improvise an acceptance speech.
to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment.
to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available: We improvised a dinner from yesterday's leftovers.

verb (used without object), im·pro·vised, im·pro·vis·ing.

to compose, utter, execute, or arrange anything extemporaneously: When the actor forgot his lines he had to improvise.

Origin of improvise

1820–30; < French improviser, or its source, Italian improvisare (later improvvisare), verbal derivative of improviso improvised < Latin imprōvīsus, equivalent to im- im-2 + prōvīsus past participle of prōvidēre to see beforehand, prepare, provide for (a future circumstance). See proviso
Related formsim·pro·vis·er, im·pro·vi·sor, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for improvise

Contemporary Examples of improvise

Historical Examples of improvise

  • In cloudy weather you can improvise a game on the dining-room table.

  • But best of all were the evenings when the Marquis chose to improvise.

  • We found out about your invention only at the last moment and therefore had to improvise.


    Robert Sheckley

  • The easiest stretcher for a scout to improvise is the coat stretcher.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

  • And you shall see, too, what a lawyer-like defence I am able to improvise.

    Debts of Honor

    Maurus Jkai

British Dictionary definitions for improvise



to perform or make quickly from materials and sources available, without previous planning
to perform (a poem, play, piece of music, etc), composing as one goes along
Derived Formsimproviser, noun

Word Origin for improvise

C19: from French, from Italian improvvisare, from Latin imprōvīsus unforeseen, from im- (not) + prōvīsus, from prōvidēre to foresee; see provide
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

Word Origin and History for improvise

1826, back-formation from improvisation, or else from French improviser (17c.), from Italian improvisare "to sing or speak extempore," from improviso, from Latin improvisus "unforeseen, unexpected" (see improvisation). Or possibly a back-formation from improvisation. Related: Improvised; improvising.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper