from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To make, compose, or perform with little or no preparation.
  • intransitive verb To make or provide from available materials.
  • intransitive verb To make, compose, or perform something extemporaneously.
  • intransitive verb To make do with whatever materials are at hand.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb 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 WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb perform without preparation
  • verb 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– + 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