Definition of instrument in English:



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

    ‘a surgical instrument’
    ‘writing instruments’
    • ‘A provider of precision instruments offers systems designed to heat and form thermoplastics into finished catheters.’
    • ‘M. Barthes admits, ‘I have an almost obsessive relation to writing instruments.’’
    • ‘This instrument is a favourite tool of the armed forces and mountain climbers all over the world.’
    • ‘I am a surgeon, so my tools are my surgical instruments.’
    • ‘It's a simple stone that has become a tool, an instrument employed for drawing marks.’
    • ‘Torque wrenches are precision instruments and need to treated and operated carefully.’
    • ‘The old house is filled with an array of farming tools and instruments from yesteryear.’
    • ‘There was also a table with knives and surgical instruments, a dentist's chair, and several white smocks hanging up on a wall.’
    • ‘Well, they are holding a pen fair, from April 19 to April 21, to showcase a plethora of pens and writing instruments.’
    • ‘Precision screws allowed precision instruments to be made.’
    • ‘It also served as the public's sole source of iron tools and instruments.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Amsler did not rest his fame on this single inspired idea but continued to invent new precision instruments.’
    • ‘Such instruments add precision to a procedure, because they're designed to compensate for involuntary movements in a surgeon's hands.’
    • ‘Despite their appearance, they are not of course instruments of torture.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Investment castings usually are small, and it is especially suited to production of jewelry and parts for precision instruments.’
    • ‘Ladders, tools and sharp instruments should not be left lying around in the open.’
    implement, tool, utensil, device, apparatus, contrivance, gadget, contraption, appliance, mechanism
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    1. 1.1A thing used in pursuing an aim or policy; a means.
      ‘drama as an instrument of learning’
      • ‘Wealth as an instrument of social control is a privilege of rank or of birth.’
      • ‘Rather it is used as an instrument of social policy.’
      • ‘Both have committed themselves to developing education as an instrument of social change.’
      • ‘We know that stereotyping is an instrument of social repression and undercuts human relationships.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Language, in this sense, was truly an instrument of power and social control.’
      • ‘Yet, sharing a meal is one of the most powerful social levelers, a potent instrument of social bonding and dissolving boundaries.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This attempt is ridiculous, not least because the government is actively engaged in strengthening religious institutions as an instrument of social control.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘These have proven to be a viable instrument of social security reform in more than a half-dozen countries, with their origins in Sweden.’
      • ‘Most favor an activist federal government that intervenes in the economy, redistributes wealth, and acts 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.’
      • ‘Public-private partnerships will be the key instruments for implementing regional development projects.’
      • ‘Is it an instrument of social oppression or of national self-assertion?’
      • ‘And hopefully, even, we need to use expropriation as an instrument of land reform.’
      • ‘It is very tempting to use prosecutions as a political instrument or a tool for revenge.’
      • ‘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.’
      agent, agency, catalyst, cause, factor, channel, force, medium, means, mechanism, vehicle, organ
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    2. 1.2A person who is exploited or made use of.
      ‘he was a mere instrument acting under coercion’
      • ‘The worker no longer sees himself as a mere instrument for fulfilling the needs of the entrepreneur.’
      • ‘That is, we should always treat people with dignity, and never use them as mere instruments.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The narcissist objectifies people and treats them as mere instruments of gratification.’
      • ‘‘No one is a mere instrument, no one a serf,’ said Friedrich Schiller.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Moshe Rabbeinu was a mere transcriber, the instrument through which these words reached us.’
      • ‘How should they react to the allegation that they are the instruments of greed, exploitation and inequality?’
      pawn, puppet, creature, dupe, hostage, counter, cog
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  • 2A measuring device used to gauge the level, position, speed, etc., of something, especially a motor vehicle or aircraft.

    • ‘Models of sophisticated weapons, missile systems and various aircraft instruments were also on display.’
    • ‘Many of these sophisticated instruments are capable of multiple functions, and the data that they gather will be studied by scientists worldwide.’
    • ‘He hired 10 women on a trial basis, and set them to work in the aircraft instrument section.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But as soon as a hijack takes place, certain codes are input by the pilot into aircraft instruments to alert ground staff.’
    • ‘The chlorophyll content was measured with an instrument called a SPAD meter which is sensitive to slight chlorophyll differences.’
    • ‘We used this same technique when the instrument measuring the solar wind speed was still working.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘Viewed in cold and analytical light, the figure was probably erroneous because of the lack of precision of the aircraft's instruments.’
    • ‘The instrument is able to measure isotopes at the individual atom level and does so by generating millions of volts of electricity.’
    • ‘The Air Force promptly made him an aircraft instrument repairman.’
    • ‘The group will use an accousticom instrument to measure radiation levels in and around homes.’
    • ‘The demonstrator tries to ‘trick the inner ear and pilots are forced to rely on the instruments to fly the aircraft’.’
    • ‘In the crash laboratory, the two tracks are measured using two laser instruments to guarantee the exact position of the cars.’
    • ‘Test aircraft are well covered, along with other, usually neglected, topics such as manufacturing and aircraft instruments.’
    • ‘Attached to the basket are instruments measuring GPS, altitude, wind speed and direction.’
    measuring device, gauge, meter, measure
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  • 3An object or device for producing musical sounds.

    ‘a percussion instrument’
    • ‘The multi-talented performer plays an array of instruments including piano, guitar, bass, trumpet and saxophone.’
    • ‘Guitars and instruments, from double bass to tiny mandolins were ordered in and a new venture was born.’
    • ‘The santour is a member of the hammered dulcimer or zither family of stringed instruments and has its origins in ancient Persian classical music.’
    • ‘After studying the piano for six years and the viola for nine, my son decided that his true instrument was the electric guitar.’
    • ‘Instruments used in the orchestrations are a piano and various combinations of percussion and rhythm band instruments.’
    • ‘However, the acoustic guitar is a folk instrument par excellence, and the folk have never been shy about subjecting their guitars to creative abuse.’
    • ‘I certainly don't hear identifiable guitars or other conventional instruments.’
    • ‘I believe the only instrument not percussion in the ensemble is the harmonium, analogous to the Balinese flute ensemble.’
    • ‘They are at home with all kinds of instruments - keyboard, guitar, flute, tabla, drums.’
    • ‘In common with most percussion instruments, the piano is incapable of producing continuous notes.’
    • ‘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 group of five are trained to play percussion instruments, xylophones and an elephant-sized harmonica.’
    • ‘Many students regard the piano as a percussion instrument, and treat it as such.’
    • ‘They learn to play instruments like violin, guitar, and trumpet.’
    • ‘Between them they play a selection of instruments including guitar, bodhrán, whistle, keyboards and English concertina.’
    • ‘The instruments are flute, cello, and piano, and all three are amplified.’
    • ‘Together, the first and last items constitute a conclusive demonstration that the piano is a percussion instrument.’
    • ‘Their Web site features a photo filled with percussion instruments, plus a guitar and bass.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 4A formal document, especially a legal one.

    ‘execution involves signature and unconditional delivery of the instrument’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘National opposes this bill because far from simply correcting that inadvertent error, it creates a whole new raft of radical, new, legal instruments.’
    • ‘The document signed on May 7 is a remarkable legal instrument.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘Genetic engineering is moving several times faster than the legal instruments.’
    • ‘The legal status of these instruments was considered in Chapter 1.’
    • ‘The requirements made in international legal instruments, such as the ones cited above, are good first principles with which to start.’
    • ‘When it is finally time for the public comment, planning instruments drafted in legal language are often found to be impenetrable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At their core, contracts are voluntary legal instruments.’
    • ‘It concerned an action to recover commission on sale where the instrument recording the contract of sale was insufficiently stamped.’
    • ‘It also violates our fundamental values of justice and fairness which these legal instruments encode.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Without the ability to resort to formal regulatory and legal instruments, the Japanese bureaucracy could guide but could not lead.’
    • ‘Later we see that the hallmark of negotiable instruments - documentary intangibles - is their ready transferability.’
    • ‘Not being a legal instrument, the Declaration would appear to be outside international law.’
    • ‘The Magna Carta is often regarded as one of the first instruments which documented due process.’


  • Equip (something) with measuring instruments.

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


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