from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation.
  • transitive v. To play or sing (music) extemporaneously, especially by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies in accordance with a set progression of chords.
  • transitive v. To make or provide from available materials: improvised a dinner from what I found in the refrigerator.
  • intransitive v. To invent, compose, or perform something extemporaneously.
  • intransitive v. To improvise music.
  • intransitive v. To make do with whatever materials are at hand.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To make something up or invent it as one goes on; to proceed guided only by imagination, instinct, and guesswork rather than by a careful plan.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To produce or render extemporaneous compositions, especially in verse or in music, without previous preparation; hence, to do anything offhand.
  • transitive v. To compose, recite, or sing extemporaneously, especially in verse; to extemporize; also, to play upon an instrument, or to act, extemporaneously.
  • transitive v. To bring about, arrange, do, or make, immediately or on short notice, without previous preparation and with no known precedent as a guide.
  • transitive v. To invent, or provide, offhand, or on the spur of the moment.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To compose and recite or sing without premeditation; speak or perform extemporaneously, especially verse or music.
  • To do or perform anything on the spur of the moment for a special occasion; contrive or bring about in an offhand way.
  • To compose verses or music extemporaneously; hence, to do anything on the spur of the moment or in an offhand way.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. perform without preparation
  • v. manage in a makeshift way; do with whatever is at hand


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

French improviser, from Italian improvvisare, from improvviso, unforeseen, from Latin imprōvīsus : in-, not; see in-1 + prōvīsus, past participle of prōvidēre, to foresee; see provide.



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  • "Savage was improvising here, or, as it's sometimes called, lying."

    —Charles Leerhsen, Crazy Good: The True Story of Dan Patch (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 241

    October 28, 2008