Definition of instrument in English:



  • 1A tool or implement, especially one for precision work.

    ‘a surgical instrument’
    ‘instruments of torture’
    ‘writing instruments’
    • ‘They may only be carving fruit and vegetables, but these precision instruments need sharpening every week and the useful life of the knives in his hands is only six weeks.’
    • ‘There was also a table with knives and surgical instruments, a dentist's chair, and several white smocks hanging up on a wall.’
    • ‘M. Barthes admits, ‘I have an almost obsessive relation to writing instruments.’’
    • ‘The old house is filled with an array of farming tools and instruments from yesteryear.’
    • ‘Such instruments add precision to a procedure, because they're designed to compensate for involuntary movements in a surgeon's hands.’
    • ‘It's a simple stone that has become a tool, an instrument employed for drawing marks.’
    • ‘It also served as the public's sole source of iron tools and instruments.’
    • ‘I am a surgeon, so my tools are my surgical instruments.’
    • ‘Torque wrenches are precision instruments and need to treated and operated carefully.’
    • ‘Despite their appearance, they are not of course instruments of torture.’
    • ‘Precision screws allowed precision instruments to be made.’
    • ‘This display will no doubt be of interest to the farming community and it may be that the general public might be surprised by the surgical instruments used by vets in the past.’
    • ‘Amsler did not rest his fame on this single inspired idea but continued to invent new precision instruments.’
    • ‘Investment castings usually are small, and it is especially suited to production of jewelry and parts for precision instruments.’
    • ‘Well, they are holding a pen fair, from April 19 to April 21, to showcase a plethora of pens and writing instruments.’
    • ‘This instrument is a favourite tool of the armed forces and mountain climbers all over the world.’
    • ‘Ladders, tools and sharp instruments should not be left lying around in the open.’
    • ‘The use of robotics in medicine allows for unprecedented control and precision of surgical instruments in minimally invasive procedures.’
    • ‘They're used as torture instruments to elicit secrets, saw off limbs, drill holes in ankles, etc.’
    • ‘A provider of precision instruments offers systems designed to heat and form thermoplastics into finished catheters.’
    implement, tool, utensil, device, apparatus, contrivance, gadget, contraption, appliance, mechanism
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  • 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’
    • ‘The demonstrator tries to ‘trick the inner ear and pilots are forced to rely on the instruments to fly the aircraft’.’
    • ‘Many of these sophisticated instruments are capable of multiple functions, and the data that they gather will be studied by scientists worldwide.’
    • ‘Test aircraft are well covered, along with other, usually neglected, topics such as manufacturing and aircraft instruments.’
    • ‘But as soon as a hijack takes place, certain codes are input by the pilot into aircraft instruments to alert ground staff.’
    • ‘In the crash laboratory, the two tracks are measured using two laser instruments to guarantee the exact position of the cars.’
    • ‘Use global positioning instruments in aircraft to assist you in making sure you are spraying the correct field and in selecting the proper spray paths.’
    • ‘Using Beer-Lambert's law, the instrument detects and measures the reductions caused by pollutants in the spectrum of ambient air.’
    • ‘We used this same technique when the instrument measuring the solar wind speed was still working.’
    • ‘The first step involves using a device called a polymerase chain reaction instrument to measure the levels of an organism's cytokines when exposed to a given material.’
    • ‘Thus it was possible to fly it on instruments from this position, which I did.’
    • ‘Columbus had no instrument to measure his speed, so he simply observed bubbles and debris floating past his ship and used those observations to make an estimate of the speed.’
    • ‘The group will use an accousticom instrument to measure radiation levels in and around homes.’
    • ‘The instrument is able to measure isotopes at the individual atom level and does so by generating millions of volts of electricity.’
    • ‘In low visibility, they help guide pilots to the runway as we transition from flying on the aircraft's instruments to a visual landing.’
    • ‘He hired 10 women on a trial basis, and set them to work in the aircraft instrument section.’
    • ‘Models of sophisticated weapons, missile systems and various aircraft instruments were also on display.’
    • ‘The chlorophyll content was measured with an instrument called a SPAD meter which is sensitive to slight chlorophyll differences.’
    • ‘Attached to the basket are instruments measuring GPS, altitude, wind speed and direction.’
    • ‘The Air Force promptly made him an aircraft instrument repairman.’
    • ‘Viewed in cold and analytical light, the figure was probably erroneous because of the lack of precision of the aircraft's instruments.’
    measuring device, gauge, meter, measure
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  • 3An 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’
    • ‘Musical instruments include drums, flutes, gongs, xylophones, and various kinds of horns.’
    • ‘I'm rooted in acoustic instruments like upright piano and violin, so my keyboard was the first electronic thing I'd ever used.’
    • ‘The santour is a member of the hammered dulcimer or zither family of stringed instruments and has its origins in ancient Persian classical music.’
    • ‘In common with most percussion instruments, the piano is incapable of producing continuous notes.’
    • ‘They learn to play instruments like violin, guitar, and trumpet.’
    • ‘Instruments used in the orchestrations are a piano and various combinations of percussion and rhythm band instruments.’
    • ‘I believe the only instrument not percussion in the ensemble is the harmonium, analogous to the Balinese flute ensemble.’
    • ‘Many students regard the piano as a percussion instrument, and treat it as such.’
    • ‘Together, the first and last items constitute a conclusive demonstration that the piano is a percussion instrument.’
    • ‘It's an epic track, layered with excellent instruments, from acoustic guitars to chiming electronics, and it maintains a warm glow despite some bittersweet lyrics.’
    • ‘The instruments are flute, cello, and piano, and all three are amplified.’
    • ‘I certainly don't hear identifiable guitars or other conventional instruments.’
    • ‘Between them they play a selection of instruments including guitar, bodhrán, whistle, keyboards and English concertina.’
    • ‘The multi-talented performer plays an array of instruments including piano, guitar, bass, trumpet and saxophone.’
    • ‘After studying the piano for six years and the viola for nine, my son decided that his true instrument was the electric guitar.’
    • ‘However, the acoustic guitar is a folk instrument par excellence, and the folk have never been shy about subjecting their guitars to creative abuse.’
    • ‘They are at home with all kinds of instruments - keyboard, guitar, flute, tabla, drums.’
    • ‘Guitars and instruments, from double bass to tiny mandolins were ordered in and a new venture was born.’
    • ‘Their Web site features a photo filled with percussion instruments, plus a guitar and bass.’
    • ‘The group of five are trained to play percussion instruments, xylophones and an elephant-sized harmonica.’
  • 4A means of pursuing an aim.

    ‘the failure of education as an instrument of social reform’
    • ‘Rather it is used as an instrument of social policy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We know that stereotyping is an instrument of social repression and undercuts human relationships.’
    • ‘Language, in this sense, was truly an instrument of power and social control.’
    • ‘Recent historical experience thus confirms the judgement made long ago by Marx and Lenin that the state can't simply be used as an instrument of social transformation.’
    • ‘Both have committed themselves to developing education as an instrument of social change.’
    • ‘It's not really an instrument of social change, as such.’
    • ‘Thus, only for a relatively short period of modern history has the American Bill of Rights been a progressive instrument of national reform.’
    • ‘It can be used to bring about change and to be an instrument of reform, but it can also be used to block change, to frustrate reform and to control and preserve the status quo.’
    • ‘Most favor an activist federal government that intervenes in the economy, redistributes wealth, and acts as an instrument of social change.’
    • ‘And hopefully, even, we need to use expropriation as an instrument of land reform.’
    • ‘Wealth as an instrument of social control is a privilege of rank or of birth.’
    • ‘Public-private partnerships will be the key instruments for implementing regional development projects.’
    • ‘Yet, sharing a meal is one of the most powerful social levelers, a potent instrument of social bonding and dissolving boundaries.’
    • ‘It is very tempting to use prosecutions as a political instrument or a tool for revenge.’
    • ‘This attempt is ridiculous, not least because the government is actively engaged in strengthening religious institutions as an instrument of social control.’
    • ‘These have proven to be a viable instrument of social security reform in more than a half-dozen countries, with their origins in Sweden.’
    • ‘Given their importance as an instrument of social regulation, it's odd that the law and law enforcement were so long cold-shouldered by historians.’
    • ‘Is it an instrument of social oppression or of national self-assertion?’
    agent, agency, catalyst, cause, factor, channel, force, medium, means, mechanism, vehicle, organ
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    1. 4.1A person who is exploited or made use of.
      ‘he was a mere instrument acting under coercion’
      • ‘How should they react to the allegation that they are the instruments of greed, exploitation and inequality?’
      • ‘He was the mere agent of the Army Council, bound to obey their orders or resign his post - the mere instrument through whose hands the libel passed for publication.’
      • ‘The narcissist objectifies people and treats them as mere instruments of gratification.’
      • ‘Moshe Rabbeinu was a mere transcriber, the instrument through which these words reached us.’
      • ‘‘No one is a mere instrument, no one a serf,’ said Friedrich Schiller.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That is, we should always treat people with dignity, and never use them as mere instruments.’
      • ‘The worker no longer sees himself as a mere instrument for fulfilling the needs of the entrepreneur.’
      pawn, puppet, creature, dupe, hostage, counter, cog
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  • 5A formal or legal document.

    ‘execution involves signature and unconditional delivery of the instrument’
    • ‘National opposes this bill because far from simply correcting that inadvertent error, it creates a whole new raft of radical, new, legal instruments.’
    • ‘The Magna Carta is often regarded as one of the first instruments which documented due process.’
    • ‘It concerned an action to recover commission on sale where the instrument recording the contract of sale was insufficiently stamped.’
    • ‘At their core, contracts are voluntary legal instruments.’
    • ‘When it is finally time for the public comment, planning instruments drafted in legal language are often found to be impenetrable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It also violates our fundamental values of justice and fairness which these legal instruments encode.’
    • ‘The document signed on May 7 is a remarkable legal instrument.’
    • ‘You have to vest first, and only after you have accomplished the vesting exercise do you accomplish the statutory rectification of the instrument in question, in our submission.’
    • ‘Nor is it true that the whole of the policy is incorporated in the certificate or that both instruments in their entirety are to be read together.’
    • ‘Later we see that the hallmark of negotiable instruments - documentary intangibles - is their ready transferability.’
    • ‘One of the significant changes introduced by the Constitutional Treaty will be a major reduction in the number of legal instruments, from 15 to five.’
    • ‘The requirements made in international legal instruments, such as the ones cited above, are good first principles with which to start.’
    • ‘Thus, they know us well and, indeed, our respondents made great efforts and we were able to devise a formal instrument for them to complete.’
    • ‘Genetic engineering is moving several times faster than the legal instruments.’
    • ‘It is only to say that the International Court and United Nations law might at present be relatively uninteresting to legal theorists because they usually are such ineffective legal instruments.’
    • ‘Many police officers and prosecutors are, of course, honest and hardworking, but they are hampered by a lack of resources and legal instruments and corruption in the courts and alongside them in the police.’
    • ‘Not being a legal instrument, the Declaration would appear to be outside international law.’
    • ‘The legal status of these instruments was considered in Chapter 1.’
    • ‘Without the ability to resort to formal regulatory and legal instruments, the Japanese bureaucracy could guide but could not lead.’


  • Equip (something) with measuring instruments.

    ‘engineers have instrumented rockets to study the upper atmosphere’
    ‘a DC-8 aircraft instrumented as a flying laboratory’
    • ‘The Austin and Duluth golf courses are similarly instrumented.’
    • ‘In this study, 12 animals were instrumented as in the mechanical ventilation study, but in addition, both hindlimbs were immobilized.’
    • ‘I like the notion of instrumenting an instant messaging client with coordination features - shared calendaring, for example.’
    • ‘The Part 572 Subpart L free motion headform was instrumented with a critically damped Entran triaxial accelerometer.’
    • ‘The aircraft was specially instrumented with several hundred strain gauges, which recorded data at a given load.’
    • ‘Numerous challenges arise in instrumenting any field test to acquire the data necessary for specific test measures.’
    • ‘For Protocol 4, animals were instrumented before delivery to measure pulmonary artery pressure and left atrial pressure.’
    • ‘Furthermore, such an object can be instrumented to record all GUI-implementation interactions.’
    • ‘The site had been extensively instrumented weeks before with multiple sensors to measure the blast pressure and its impact on a number of residential and industrial buildings surrounding ground zero.’
    • ‘BMC's automation solutions are instrumented to be capable of serving all of these potential environments.’
    • ‘Future GPS testing organizations would obtain cost savings and a reduced coordination effort if more operational systems were similarly instrumented.’
    • ‘This precision grinder is fully instrumented to facilitate data collection and analysis.’
    • ‘Each site was instrumented with several Onset portable data loggers connected to single probe-type thermistors.’
    • ‘The braces were instrumented with strain gauges on the medial support bracket to allow determination of the brace loads during walking.’
    • ‘The dish, a Multi-Electrode Array, is instrumented with 60 two-way electrodes for communication between the neurons and external electronics.’
    • ‘Each patient's brace was instrumented with strain gauges on the day of testing and bench-calibrated just before testing by using known loads.’
    • ‘Showing how it is instrumented can be helpful in instrumenting your custom components.’
    • ‘First, the subjects studied were heavily instrumented and it is possible that the arousal response may be altered as a result.’
    • ‘Both aircraft were heavily instrumented and the prototype put in 165 hours over 130 flights in just 51 days while the second machine contributed 86 hours.’
    • ‘Additional information can be obtained if the impact tester is instrumented to provide a load-line history of the specimen during each test.’


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