[in-stuh ns]
See more synonyms for instance on
  1. a case or occurrence of anything: fresh instances of oppression.
  2. an example put forth in proof or illustration: to cite a few instances.
  3. Law. the institution and prosecution of a case.
  4. Archaic. urgency in speech or action.
  5. Obsolete. an impelling motive.
verb (used with object), in·stanced, in·stanc·ing.
  1. to cite as an instance or example.
  2. to exemplify by an instance.
verb (used without object), in·stanced, in·stanc·ing.
  1. to cite an instance.
  1. at the instance of, at the urging or suggestion of: He applied for the assistantship at the instance of his professor.
  2. for instance, as an example; for example: If you were to go to Italy, for instance, you would get a different perspective on our culture.

Origin of instance

1300–50; Middle English < Latin instantia presence, urgency (Medieval Latin: case, example). See instant, -ance
Related formscoun·ter·in·stance, nounun·in·stanced, adjective

Synonym study

2. See case1. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for instances

Contemporary Examples of instances

Historical Examples of instances

British Dictionary definitions for instances


  1. a case or particular example
  2. for instance for or as an example
  3. a specified stage in proceedings; step (in the phrases in the first, second, etc, instance)
  4. urgent request or demand (esp in the phrase at the instance of)
  5. logic
    1. an expression derived from another by instantiation
    2. See substitution (def. 4b)
  6. archaic motive or reason
verb (tr)
  1. to cite as an example

Word Origin for instance

C14 (in the sense: case, example): from Medieval Latin instantia example, (in the sense: urgency) from Latin: a being close upon, presence, from instāns pressing upon, urgent; see instant
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 instances



mid-14c., "urgency," from Old French instance "eagerness, anxiety, solicitation" (13c.), from Latin instantia "presence, effort intention; earnestness, urgency," literally "a standing near," from instans (see instant). In Scholastic logic, "a fact or example" (early 15c.), from Medieval Latin instantia, used to translate Greek enstasis. This led to use in phrase for instance "as an example" (1650s), and the noun phrase To give (someone) a for instance (1953, American English).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with instances


see under for example.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.